Robocall a dirty trick, but whose?
The last time Election Day shenanigans played out in Maryland, homeless Philadelphians got a day trip to Maryland, a welcome from then-first lady Kendel Ehrlich, $100, a couple of meals and a T-shirt.
This time around, the only thing anybody got out of the dirty trick was an annoying dinner-hour robocall. Or in some cases, two calls.
Between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday — before polls closed at 8 p.m. — Baltimore residents reported receiving an automated call telling them to "relax," that Gov. Martin O'Malley had won re-election. "The only thing left is to watch on TV tonight."
About the same time, some Baltimoreans got a second robocall, this one from Rep. Elijah Cummings, warning them about alleged Republican efforts to suppress voter turnout.
Democrats, recalling the homeless Philadelphians bused in to hand out misleading campaign material for Ehrlich and then-Senate candidate Michael Steele at the polls four years ago, immediately blamed O'Malley's Republican opponent.
"Sadly, this is the kind of gutter politics that we have come to expect from Bob Ehrlich and the Republican Party," Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.
But the swift response by Cummings — Heather Dewar, an Urbanite Magazine editor and former Baltimore Sun reporter, said she actually got the congressman's call before the "relax" one — gave rise to a conspiracy theory: that the Dems were behind both calls. That would make Republicans look bad, the theory goes, and increase Democratic turnout in the process.
For the record, the Ehrlich and O'Malley campaigns said they had no hand in the "relax" call.
As for the Cummings call, Mike Christianson, counsel to the Cummings campaign and a longtime aide to the congressman, explained how it came about.
About 6:30 p.m., someone from Organizing for America, an arm of the Democratic National Committee, contacted Cummings to alert him to the "relax" call, Christianson said. That person asked Cummings to record a rebuttal call, offering to supply a script if need be.
"They gave him a number, and he recorded the call, I think, within 15 minutes," Christianson said.
Christianson said he has heard from people who thought the swift response looked fishy.
"There are people who expressed that," he said. "I would have to say, at least personally speaking, we didn't feel a great need to make Bobby Ehrlich and his campaign look bad. They were doing enough on their own to achieve that goal."