The Deciding Battle Ground
Maryland could give birth to a true "two-party" system in November should Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. win a second term. Not since Gen. John Stricker marched his 3,000 faithful defenders to North Point has Baltimore County prepared for such a history-changing event. Just as it was in September 1814, this county is again ground zero.
Every politician on both sides of the aisle in Maryland knows where the partisan votes are allocated. Republicans win all jurisdictions except Baltimore City, Prince George and Montgomery Counties. The question is: What will the percentages be?
Four years ago the county's son, Bob Ehrlich, dominated vote rich Baltimore County. Now many are thinking that Martin O'Malley will have great influence in the densely urban neighborhoods that are within the county but nearly indistinguishable from Baltimore City, and, thus, shave a few points.
The battle of 2006 will begin and end with the troops in Baltimore County. The outcome will not be an O'Malley win in Ehrlich Country. Everyone accepts that as fact. If Mayor O'Malley gains a couple of points in a large county might be enough in a tight race and throw the executive branch of government back to the "dark side."
On the other hand an Ehrlich win will mean other Republicans are also winning some tight races, perhaps even in some non-traditional places. This type of victory will not give Maryland an equal balance on the Republican/Democrat scale, but it will narrow the gap causing almost equal political footing between the two major parties.
The "political ground war" will be voter turnout. It's a shame to say, but in general the citizens who exercise their right to vote is a comparatively small number. Another interesting fact is fewer citizens vote in gubernatorial elections than do in a presidential one.
The key for Republicans to win is simply "more Republicans voting." That's right, Republicans can win more than most expect if they increase their voter turnout. Just by convincing people who typically vote only in Presidential elections to vote in 2006, could turn the tide to Republican candidates in November.
Republican activists have already been hitting the streets and manning the phones looking for all registered Republicans and convincing them it is okay to vote in off-year elections. The message that Governor Ehrlich needs additional Republican legislators in Annapolis and the importance of down ballot support is being emphasized.
Where is the easiest place to make this plea? Naturally, in Ehrlich Country which is Baltimore County. It's also the place where O'Malley's problems and shortfalls are well known. They just have to watch television news or observe it for themselves as they commute to work.
If it is left to the citizens of Baltimore County, Bob Ehrlich wins. The voters here "Luv the Guv." They see the problems with Baltimore City - its crime, poor public education system and finances; and they know who has been at the helm of that rotting ship. It's like looking at your neighbor and being glad you don't have his problems.
But like in any conventional war, now is the time to energize the ground troops. Soon the clash of the lawn signs begins; then comes the battle of the too often-repeated TV ads; and finally the skirmish as poll workers chase you on Election Day.
Both political parties know there is much at stake. This election will be step two in changing Maryland's political make-up and drawing Republicans closer to parody in the political power structure called the "two-party system."
It's just too bad the voting public isn't paying much attention. We have to change mind set. And it will be done.