Ehrlich: Money not a problem in 2010
Former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich raised $18 million for his unsuccessful re-election campaign in 2006. But if he seeks a rematch next year against incumbent Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, he expects to collect considerably less.
Ehrlich put a $10 million to $12 million price tag on it during an interview in his downtown Baltimore office today (that figure isn't exactly breaking news--it's been attributed previously to anonymous Republican sources, though not necessarily to Ehrlich himself).
What may be more telling, though, is that Ehrlich is saying money wouldn't be a problem if he ran. Recent commentary from Republican activists and political analysts about a 2010 Ehrlich campaign has focused on money and the imperative for Ehrlich to start raising it now.
Some of those pushing him to get in have pointed to the time-consuming demands of fund-raising as a big reason for action. Ehrlich himself, according to various reports, had been saying that whether he could raise enough money was one of the main conditions that would have to be met before he decided to run.
But the prospective candidate insisted today that he doesn't see a problem building a $10 million to $12 million pot (obviously, it's tougher to attract donations when you aren't a sitting governor, which is why O'Malley is very likely to wind up as the big spender next year).
Ehrlich also says that $10 million to $12 million would be enough.
Ehrlich points out that 2010 would be a "truncated campaign." There's a limit, he said, to how much he could effectively spend in a contest that took less than one year from start to finish.
Chatting in his spectacular 13th-floor corner office that overlooks the baseball diamond at Oriole Park, the 51-year-old ex-governor (he turns 52 the day before Thanksgiving) offered a dispassionate assessment of the option he faces.
He's figured out who his likely swing-vote targets will be (white women and, to a lesser extent, African-American men). And it's clear, from public and private polls, that O'Malley is potentially vulnerable.
Over the past two weeks, since he became more public about his 2010 deliberations, Ehrlich says interest in his activities has "quadrupled," from grassroots Republicans and the news media.
And Ehrlich is continuing to do many of the things that a candidate would do. He's popping up around the state at political events (he headlined a local Republican fund-raising dinner in Aberdeen on Monday) and keeping his national profile alive (he's got a Fox News shot tomorrow on Sean Hannity's show in New York).
In the end, though, it all boils down to numbers. A recent statewide poll showed him 7 percentage points back of O'Malley, the same spread as the 2006 general election. Then there are the external numbers: as the economy continues to sputter, incumbents like O'Malley look increasingly vulnerable, even in a deep blue state where Democratic candidates start out with a huge advantage.
Ehrlich says his decision will ultimately turn on the answer to this question: "Do enough people want me to be governor again?" In other words: Can he win?
It's clear that Ehrlich would relish the opportunity to avenge his 2006 defeat. Losing again would only cost him his pride this time, instead of his job. But he's a hard-headed pragmatist, not a romantic fool, with little appetite for hopeless causes.