So, who won? O'Malley was more polished - as he usually is - I'm not sure that 2010 is a year for polished politicians. That said, O'Malley stayed more focused, used questions to his advantage and had key talking points that he hammered away at. I think that his defense of taking federal funds and his tax increase may have been missteps.
Ehrlich had weak opening and closing statements, but found his footing in between. He needed to hammer away at O'Malley on the sales tax and income tax increases, and did so only late in the debate. His focus on federal funds to prop up spending was wise. I also think that he did a good job of talking about non-Republican issues like furlough, help for minority child in failing schools, working families and the sales tax.
On balance, I think O'Malley was more focused and on message, but his reference, twice, to the use of "coded language" suggesting that Ehrlich was race baiting was a very unfortunate, and frankly indefensible attack. It was a cheap shot made, I assume, to motivate African American voters. It tainted O'Malley's performance.
Ehrlich entered tonight's debate trailing in the polls. I can't think of anything in the debate that would change the dynamic of the race. I can see why Ehrlich has agreed to multiple debates. O'Malley has a clear cash advantage and the debates are free advertising for Ehrlich - but he needs to be more focused and clearly refute O'Malley's ads. O'Malley needs to reconsider his defense of using federal stimulus funds to plug the state's budget - that issue is a loser in 2010.
I cannot wait for the next debate.
7:55 - Closing Statements - who cares who goes first? Ehrlich looked bad in that exchange.
O'Malley mentions new economy and states that will win and move forward. Innovation economy mentioned again. I am on your side. Big "everything" have people on their side. I'm on your side. I need your help.
Ehrlich - Big is evil, except when it's a casino and gives O'Malley $16,000. Ehrlich defends record on employment, ICC, Maryland has record unemployment, tax increases and we have a choice in November.
Ehrlich does not do opening and closing statements well.
7:50 - Immigration - Ehrlich mentions tuition and driver licenses - he blocked in-state tuition and could not block the drivers licenses. Casa de Maryland using state money to assist illegal behavior. We are all immigrants, but should accept one culture. No in state tuition, no driver's licenses. Democrats and Republicans have failed on this policy.
O'Malley criticizes existing immigration law and defers to federal government. Need comprehensive reform. Mentions that Ehrlich said multiculturalism in bunk. Do not blame new Americans for our problems. Mentions Wall Street and unfunded Wars.
7:45 - Campaign Ads- Why negative? O'Malley calls his ads fair and pointing out Ehrlich's "fantasy world." "I have an obligation to compare and contrast records." We've run positive ads as well. Mentions new business developments.
Ehrlich - O'Malley spent $24 billion more. Thanks "Andrew" for the question. O'Malley has run "over the top" negative ads. "Blamed me for the Louisiana oil spill" Ehrlich says that with all of his advantages O'Malley has gone negative, because negatives work. But O'Malley went negative so early. But Ehrlich should have challenged specific ads and didn't. His answer is not focused enough. Cute response about buying ads on Ehrlich's radio show.
O'Malley criticizes Ehrlich's radio show and mentions that Ehrlich took federal money as well.
Ehrlich now mentions the $1.4 billion tax increase under O'Malley. He needs to hammer away at that. Mentions "victory parties" but no new jobs and doubled unemployed. Again you spent more, I left you a $1 billion surplus.
O'Malley makes an odd reference to President Bush and defends tax increase. Argues that taxes are lower for 41% of Marylanders due to tax exemptions and earned income tax credit.
Ehrlich accuses O'Malley of class warfare. Maryland General Assembly would not cut taxes. O'Malley blames Bush, but what about jobs?
7:40 - Firearms? Why does anyone care? Ehrlich reaffirms defense of 2nd amendment. Gun violence driven by addiction. Mentions Supreme Court affirmation of gun rights.
O'Malley - Gun and gun violence fuel crime. O'Malley believes in limiting access to rapidfire guns. Defends Baltimore's crime reduction record. Parole, probation, juvenile services part of solution. O'Malley is making better use of the question to talk about crime. Mentions 24,000 DNA backlog lleft by Ehrlich. Caught 270 violent offenders. Strong answer from O'Malley.
Ehrlich - DNA sample bill was an Ehrlich initiative. Ehrlich created the database and the new work. Mentions the blanket arrests in Baltimore under O'Malley. This is a tough, but accurate criticism. Ehrlich needs to be more focused though. That was a tough hit at O'Malley and he should have spent more time on it. Stop talikng about guns - get back to the mass arrests in Baltimore.
O'Malley - DNA backlog went analyzed. "C'mon, man" Steep decline in homicide rates.
Ehrlich - but law enforcement endorsed me.
7:30 - Teachers - O'Malley defends furloughs as better than mass layoffs. O'Malley says that we protected children's achievement levels. Education should not be a recession victim.
Ehrlich again says no to furloughs. May not save what you expected. Ehrlich speaks directly to state employees. Interesting tactic, may help in Maryland. Stands him apart from Republican Party. Speaks to low income single families working for state, sales tax, community college increases- Ehrlich is appealing to working families. Interesting tactic.
O'Malley says that Ehrlich worked to overthrow union contracts and that Ehrlich would cut education funding. O'Malley is back to education.
Ehrlich says that O'Malley is not funding things that he claims to support, but rather he is using temporary federal funds not fixed dollars. Ehrlich says that O'Malley is using federal funds to continue spending and that money will go away.
O'Malley defends using federal funding. Not sure if that is a good tactic.
Ehrlich attacks again the use of federal money.
7:25 - Public Education - O'Malley should be strong on this. Says he provided record funding for schools, recognized as among the best, won Race to the Top federal grant. Doubled charter schools. Incentives to recruit teachers to hard schools.
Ehrlich - Supported funding Thorton. We have some very good schools in well off areas. But what of the failing schools in Baltimore City? Schools that O'Malley would not help them in 2006. Ehrlich is being passionate about Baltimore schools. Takes credit for charter schools in the state. "Born poor should not determine quality of education." This is Ehrlich's strongest answer so far.
O'Malley's response was below the belt and a bit disturbing. Ehrlich made a passionate defense of quality education and O'Malley accused him of using coded language - essentially suggesting that Ehrlich was denegrating "children of color."
Ehrlich's response was strong, we must defend the rights of children of color.
O'Malley's use again of the term "coded languge" that's such a loaded accusation.
I think Ehrlich wins that exchange because O'Malley went dirty.
7:15 - Taxes? O'Malley will not pledge to not raise taxes, mentions Ehrlich's increases in fees, property taxes, and business filing fees. Says that he decreased spending - state spending (he is excluding federal dependent spending). O'Malley says the state is creating jobs. Mentions innovation economy again - is this a message that resonates?
State workers? Ehrlich says no to furloughs. It demoralizes workers. On the Budget - O'Malley's budgets were $24 billion more than Ehrlich's - O'Malley just used federal dollars. Ehrlich needs to do a better job clearly stating what he's talking about. Says he doubled need based aid for college. Fewer Maryland kids are being admitted to Maryland schools - makes it more affordable for out of staters.
O'Malley - Making college more affordable is crucial, "innovation economy" again. College prices increased under Ehrlich by 40%. Ehrlich did not freeze college tuition, forced a 40% increase. O'Malley had a 4 year freeze. Ehrlich did vote to increease property tax.
Ehrlich - property tax went down. Governors do not set tuition. O'Malley ads are half truths.
7:10 - The Economy - Ehrlich needs to win on this issue. Maryland "hostile" to business. Too much regulation, no net gain of jobs. "Small business community is backbone of community. Business people need answers, not hostility. Small business and source to tax or a source of jobs. We cannot rely on federal spending or base closings." Strong answer from Ehrlich, but still needs to be focused.
O'Malley reminds that all are hurting. O'Malley links regulation to the health of the Bay. "Key to creating jobs is transformation into innovation. Biotech, life science." O'Malley says 33,000 net new jobs in Maryland - not sure of his math there. Unemployment has doubled. US Chamber of Commerce named Maryland #2 state for technology.
Ehrlich - Reminds all that we get a lot of federal dollars from NHI, Military, 216,000 Marylanders out of work. Maryland had higher "pro-business" rating under Ehrlich. This is about "private sector jobs" not public sector jobs.
7:05 - Opening statements, Casual Bob Ehrlich has come to the debate, Ehrlich needed to be more formal in in this debate. His opening statement was not focused. Spent more time thanking people than anything else.
Too Serious Martin O'Malley has come, he's trying to hypnotize the audience with his stare. His statement is more foccused. Ehrlich says "Governors matter" but O'Malley is explaining why.
O'Malley wins the opening statement.
7PM - The stakes are high, especially for Ehrlich. He's trailing and needs a solid performance. O'Malley just needs to avoid any mistakes.
I'll be live blogging the gubernatorial debate in Maryland tonight starting at 7pm.