O'Malley v. Ehrlich: Return of the debate debate
Just when it seemed this week's political news would center on how much money the major candidates had raised, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has instead decided to talk about ... talk.
This morning, Ehrlich communications director Henry Fawell released a letter to O'Malley's campaign mananger proposing five debates. (Where'd that come from?! Neither campaign had talked publicly about debates in four months.)
"I am confident our respective campaigns will agree that holding multiple public debates is the best way for the citizens of Maryland to learn about the two leading gubernatorial candidates," Fawell writes.
Here's Ehrlich's proposal:
* WMAR-TV “Square Off” with Richard Sher as moderator; sixty minute debate with no timed responses. Taped for live on September 16th in the afternoon with no audience.
* WJLA-TV/NewsChannel 8 in association with the Howard County Chamber of Commerce; sixty minutes with no timed responses; Bruce DePuyt as moderator.
* Radio debate hosted by the Baltimore Jewish Council. Broadcaster, length, moderator and rules to be determined.
* WOLB Radio hosts a sixty minute debate, moderated by Senator Larry Young. No timed responses.
* WTOP Radio debate with host to be determined; Friday October 29th at 10 AM; sixty minutes with no timed responses.
(A couple of notes: Longtime Ehrlich aide Greg Massoni used to work for WJLA. Young, a Democratic former Baltimore senator, is friendly with Ehrlich and his family.)
Tom Russell, O'Malley's campaign manager, issued a statement saying the governor "will be happy to debate whoever is the Republican nominee after the primary." The primary election is Sept. 14, and although Ehrlich is favored to win, he faces a Republican challlenger in Brian Murphy, who recently drew an endorsement from Sarah Palin.
But the O'Malley campaign has already been working to arrange debates with Ehrlich. Russell says the campaign has been in talks with several television and radio stations. He names three that appear on the Ehrlich list: the Baltimore Jewish Council, WTOP and WMAR.
Could it be that the two campaigns will work out several debates? We'll see. The two prefer dramatically different parameters -- Ehrlich unmoderated and O'Malley more traditional.
During their 2006 matchup, it took the campaigns until October to reach accord on debate. O'Malley and Ehrlich had two testy televised debates Oct. 14. One aired on WBAL and Maryland Public Television and the other on WJZ and MPT.
Dusting off the "debate debate" whenever a candidate wants to change the subject (ahem -- campaign finance report?) seems to be a popular concept this year.
O'Malley did just that the day before Ehrlich made it official that he'd be challenging O'Malley in the fall election. He offered to debate Ehrlich on the former governor's own WBAL radio show -- something Ehrlich accepted on the condition that there be no moderator. No deal.