Bob Ehrlich and Martin O'Malley met for a third time today on WOLB radio. The station has a largely African American audience and issues of concern to the African American community topped the agenda early on and throughout.
A casual listener may have been confused, however, and wondered if President Obama was running for governor of Maryland. On question after question O'Malley made reference to President Obama - President Obama is moving America forward and he needs our help to move Maryland forward. The great recession is ending and President Obama prevented a great depression.
O'Malley referred to health care as a great and "courageous" accomplishment for President Obama, his response had little to do with the question asked, but O'Malley again had to link himself to President Obama. Ehrlich offered a reasonable critique of the health reform bill, he defended some of it, criticized others - it's what a governor, what any thinking person, should do. O'Malley was so busy trying to convince voters that a vote for O'Malley was the same as a vote for Obama that he refused to even consider questioning anything the President has done and at times it seemed that he spent more time discussing Obama's record than his own. I fully expect the next O'Malley ad to end with the tag "I'm Martin O'Bama and I approve of this message."
O'Malley's worst response came early on when host Larry Young asked O'Malley to defend his zero tolerance policy while Mayor of Baltimore - a policy that resulted n the mass arrests of innocent African American men. O'Malley completely ignored the question and never defended the program.
Ehrlich had no "worst moment" but at times spent too much time talking about fact checkers instead of just refuting O'Malley. But Ehrlich did come across as a moderate and reasonable voice in a debate where O'Malley seemed like little more than a cheerleader and yes-man for President Obama.
In general I would have rated the debate a draw, if not for O'Malley's constant deference to everything President Obama has ever done. It simply came across as cheap pandering. I have to assume that the audience saw through the incredibly obvious tactic - and they should have been somewhat offended by it.
I commend Larry Young for doing an excellent job hosting the debate.