Ehrlich courts women in new campaign ad
A new attack ad from Team Ehrlich hit the airwaves this weekend hammering Gov. Martin O'Malley on familiar themes: Taxes and pocketbook issues. What's new about the spot is the overwhelming number of women featured in it.
The 30-second ad is mostly black and white and includes the voices of 13 women who point out flaws with O'Malley's tenure. (One woman in the ad mentions concern for her daughters' futures.) The piece is capped off with GOP lieutenant governor pick Mary Kane offering up Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. as a more palatable alternative.
The overt focus on women marks a shift for Ehrlich, who has not used paid advertising to make an outright appeal for the female vote. It is also the first TV ad featuring Kane with a solo speaking role. Ehrlich's voice is not used at all in the spot.
Ehrlich has ground to make up with female voters. He consistently trails O'Malley, a Democrat, with the group. The Washington Post recently pegged the gender gap at 56 to 38. O'Malley isn't taking female support for granted, said his deputy campaign manager Rick Abbruzzese. The governor just wrapped up a series of rallies focused on generating enthusiasm with the group.
The ad makes a series of claims that are worth examining. The first woman is annoyed with O'Malley because every time she goes to the grocery store she pays "a little more," a reference to O'Malley's 20 percent increase to the sales tax. Food, however, is not subject to the state's sales tax.
Ehrlich campaign spokesman Henry Fawell said the claim is supportable because grocery shoppers frequently pick up other items that are subject to the new tax like shampoo, detergent, books and magazines. A central plank of Ehrlich's platform is a promise to repeal O'Malley's increase -- but has not detailed how he'd pay for that change.
Another woman in the ad is irritated with O'Malley because college tuition is going up, a reference to the three percent hike at Maryland's public university system this year. She does not mention that costs at the state's public schools also increased during Ehrlich's watch.
A third is upset about hikes to her utility bills, referring to the 72 percent increase to utility costs that dominated the 2006 campaign cycle when it was proposed by an oversight panel. O'Malley latched on to the proposed increase when running against Ehrlich last time but, after toppling him with the promise of holding down rates, the bills still skyrocketed. We've blogged about the history of the BGE issue - one both camps like to rehash.
The last gripe is the largest: A woman says O'Malley would "raise taxes even more." The governor said in a meeting last week with The Sun editorial board that the budget he's preparing for next year includes no new tax increases. He has not ruled out raising taxes in ensuing years but has often said he'd prefer not to do that.