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As Long as We Remember...

July 20, 2006

Politics Turning Up The Heat

Edward Lulie III

Maryland just might be electing the first ever African-American senator from Maryland this fall; and he's a Republican by the name of Michael Steele.

Lately Democrats, until recently confident that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., was headed for defeat, have seen his campaign begins to show signs of renewed life. Summer's heat and humidity are already here, but it is the political season that is really starting to heat up.

U.S. Senate candidate and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele came to Frederick for a Sunday rally and then was back the next day for the "Cabinet Meeting" at the Weinberg Center with Governor Ehrlich. He appears confident and comfortable giving a speech. His honesty and frankness have been charming moderates and disarming skeptical Democrats.

He refuses to fit the stereotypes that Democrats try to force on him; comments by some that Mr. Steele isn't really "black" has alienated and angered many voters. He is a political moderate who is also a cultural conservative, just as many African Americans are. His success with this historically Democrat base has Maryland Democrats scared. Perhaps panicked might be a better description.

Democrats' strategists are at a loss as to how to deal with the problem of a Michael Steele; stealing his credit report was one such mistake which backfired. Attacking him is a risky proposition, yet Democrats just don't have any other plays left in their handbook. Expect some real mudslinging in the months to come; but, unless he seriously missteps, Michael Steele may just stun Democrats this fall and be elected.

Governor Ehrlich is lagging in early polls but his campaign has suddenly started to show life. Rudolph Giuliani appeared in Baltimore to help raise money and bolster Ehrlich's campaign. The selection of Kristen Cox as his running mate has been surprisingly well received.

I have seen her in person and understand now how this charming lady has achieved such widespread popularity and acclaim. I believe she will strengthen the campaign as it heads to November. Democrats are less certain now about the governor's race than they were just a week ago; but haven't let their concerns go public...yet.

Governor Ehrlich will be facing a serious challenge by a much more talented opponent than Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Mayor Martin O'Malley has considerable charisma and can give a decent speech.

As was demonstrated by Doug Duncan's pointed attacks, Mr. O'Malley does carry considerable baggage; such as the disastrous state of Baltimore City's schools. Republicans were sad to see Montgomery County's Duncan leave the race because the rifts and wounds that he was causing inside the Democratic Party were causing serious damage.

Helping Mayor O'Malley this fall will be his loving friends at the Baltimore's Sunpaper (Governor Ehrlich can justly claim that they've been out to get him from day one). Rest assured that they will bend over backwards to give Mr. O'Malley favorable coverage while continuing to cast Governor Ehrlich in the worst light possible.

Parris Glendening left the governor's mansion four years ago with huge statewide problems and a massive deficit. Bob Ehrlich, despite the best efforts of Democrats, has done much since talking office to solve those problems. How ironic it would be if Mr. O'Malley would win and reap the rewards of Ehrlich's labors. Where will Mayor O'Malley want to guide Maryland if he wins? How quickly can you say the words "tax increase?"

As the sweltering days of summer continue, be sure to carefully watch the political scene. All of the fireworks did not end on July 4th. There are many more spectacular exhibitions yet to come.

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