Todd Eberly, a professor of political science at St. Mary's College in Southern Maryland, said Ehrlich's position gives O'Malley an opening in the swing counties where the race could be decided.
"For so many of the voters in the counties Ehrlich needs, they want the expanded mass transit," Eberly said.
Voters in Anne Arundel, Charles, Frederick and Howard counties would take a decision to cut rail projects in Montgomery and Prince George's as a sign that they could never expect such service to come their way, he said
Eberly said that while Ehrlich's opposition to light rail seems to play into his theme of fiscal responsibility, the Republican had erred in the issue he chose to highlight it because business wants infrastructure investment.I believe that Ehrlich has made a serious miscalculation here. This position may help him on the Eastern Shore or in Western Maryland - but he was already going to win those regions. Ehrlich needs Anne Arundel, Howard, and Baltimore Counties and he needs to have a respectable finish in Montgomery County - bus rapid transit will not secure those results.
"It can really counter Ehrlich's business-friendly message," the political science professor said.
In addition to votes, Ehrlich's stand could cost him in terms of fundraising from businesses that might like his stance on taxes and regulation but oppose him on transportation issues. But he also could achieve gains by cutting into O'Malley support in heavily Democratic areas that oppose the governor's light rail plans.