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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Is Ehrlich Debate Challenge a Smoke Screen?

Update III: And now it makes sense - Ehrlich raised $3.2 million, but only has $2 million in the bank. So O'Malley has a tremendous cash advantage. No wonder Ehrlich wanted to change the story.

Update II: The Ehrlich camp is reporting that they raised $3.2 million - essentially on par with what the O'Malley camp raised during the same period. There is no doubt that O'Malley will have raise more cash - in total - but Ehrlich will have more than enough to run a competitive race. I'm not sure why they waited until Friday to release this data.  I assume that they worried about comparisons between Ehrlich's cash on hand and O'Malley's. 

Update: Julie Bykowicz is reporting at the Baltimore Sun that team Ehrlich is going to wait until tomorrow to release their numbers. To me, this is further evidence that the numbers will be weak and the debate challenge was a smoke screen. It is a tried and true tactic in politics to issue bad or otherwise unflattering news on a Friday so that it will be lost in a weekend full family activities and other real life distractions.

Seemingly out of the blue, and one month before the nominating primary, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Ehrlich has issued a pretty detailed debate challenge to his likely Democratic opponent, Governor Martin O'Malley.

The general election is 3 months away and the race is pretty much tied - why issue a debate challenge now?  Call be suspicious but I have to wonder if Ehrlich is trying to change the storyline and there are three possible stories that he's trying to quash:
  1. He wants people to stop talking about Brian Murphy. His rival for the GOP nomination has been receiving a great deal of free press following his surprise endorsement from Sarah Palin. Murphy has been all over the pages of the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun and has landed interviews on local TV and radio as well as the Fox Business channel.
  2. O'Malley just announced that he has a campaign war chest loaded with $6.7 million - a hefty sum heading into the campaign and a number that may dampen enthusiasm among Ehrlich supporters.
  3. Speaking of fundraising, Ehrlich still has not released his current fundraising totals. O'Malley released his yesterday (so that he could brag about the impressive haul) but the Ehrlich camp seems to be waiting. I find it odd that they would issue a debate challenge on the same day they intend to release their fundraising totals - unless those totals are less than impressive. Ehrlich wanted to raise $3 million, if he came in under that number the press spin would be very negative and it would make Ehrlich appear weak against the fundraising prowess of O'Malley.
I suspect Ehrlich issued the debate challenge to grab back some headlines, but wait until his campaign releases their fundraising totals. If those numbers are below $3 million, then we'll know exactly why he issued the challenge - distraction.