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Monday, May 17, 2010:

The Agenda

WagnerIt would be wrong to read too much into how a candidate chooses to spend any given day more than five months before an election. That said, Tuesday is shaping up as an interesting one this week for both Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). Both 2010 hopefuls will be spending some quality time in the other's geographic base.

Md-OpeningDay-Ehrlich2.JPGEhrlich is planning his most high-profile foray into vote-rich but heavily Democratic Montgomery County since he launched his comeback campaign there on the morning of April 7. Details have not been released, but aides say Ehrlich's tentative itinerary includes a pair of business visits, one in Bethesda and one in Rockville, and a walking tour of shops at Rockville Town Center, the site of his campaign announcement.

Thumbnail image for o'malley.JPGO'Malley's activities, it should be said, are not billed as campaign events. He is bringing his Capital for a Day program to the east side of Baltimore County. Details of O'Malley's day will be released Monday, but we're told to expect stops at the Oak Crest retirement community, Gunpowder Falls State Park and a business (one that we're guessing is doing relatively well). As we've noted before, these days share some similarities with campaign swings.

Ehrlich, who has more capacity to be candid than your average pol, has acknowledged he must do better in the Washington region to win this year, and his team sees Montgomery as the most inviting opportunity. In his 2006 loss to O'Malley, Ehrlich won less than 37 percent of the vote in Montgomery, down from 39 percent in his 2002 victory over then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D).

As we put it in a piece last month: "The 110,000 independent voters in Montgomery -- nearly a quarter of all of the state's independents -- are attractive targets at a time when Republicans have appealed to similar blocs to win races in Massachusetts and other blue states. Ehrlich advisers say they think he can also pick up significantly more votes than in 2006 among Montgomery's white men, his strongest demographic statewide four years ago."

It's also easy to forget that Montgomery, the state's most populous county, has more registered Republicans than any Maryland jurisdiction besides Baltimore County. And Ehrlich needs to keep them engaged between now and November.

A Washington Post poll released last week showed the former governor still has plenty of work to do in Montgomery. Among registered voters in the county, O'Malley was leading, 59 percent to 29 percent.

O'Malley advisers probably won't say so publicly, but it's hard to imagine they wouldn't be satisfied to fight Ehrlich to a near-draw again in Baltimore County.

Ehrlich became Maryland's first Republican governor in a generation largely because he racked up hugely lopsided wins in the Baltimore suburbs in 2002. O'Malley, the former mayor of Baltimore, performed much better in the region in 2006, in part by playing the populist on electricity rates and other pocketbook issues. That helped limit the defections of blue-collar Democrats to the Republican camp.

This year's political environment could make that a more difficult task for O'Malley, but last week's poll showed Ehrlich's numbers in the Baltimore region looking closer to 2006 than 2002 at this point.

The 2010 governor's race won't be won or lost on Tuesday. But what the candidates say could tell us a lot about what we should expect to hear from them in the coming five months.

-- John Wagner

News You Should Know

Preakness provides national exposure for O'Malley...
O'Malley Preakness.jpg"The Preakness Stakes has a 135-year tradition of producing not just a winning horse but a winning politician -- Maryland's governor, who gets a brief moment in the national spotlight awarding the second jewel of racing's Triple Crown," writes The Baltimore Sun's Julie Bykowicz. "Saturday was no exception, and Gov. Martin O'Malley, who has been an attending dignitary for more than a decade, first as Baltimore mayor, said he felt an even deeper sense of pride this year."

... but horse industry still waiting on slots
Horses.jpg"Today's running of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore serves as an annual reminder of Maryland's historically lofty perch in the equine hierarchy," writes The Post's Ian Shapira. "But behind the nationally televised Triple Crown race, Maryland's horse industry is collapsing. Local breeders, frustrated by the unmet promise that slot machines would rescue their industry, are taking their business to slots-rich states such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware." In a piece that strikes some of the same chords, The Sun's Jeff Barker writes: "While the Preakness has remained in Maryland, the state industry has suffered as slot machines have helped boost horse racing in other states. Maryland struggles with smaller fields and purses."

Both camps open fire on the other's budget skills
"The campaigns of Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. each have fired mortar rounds about how the other side has handled the state's budget," writes Douglas Tallman in the Gazette. "Each man has touted his fiscal leadership, and each has denigrated the stewardship of his opponent. They both cite numbers to prove their assertions. It's not hard to find people who praise either man's approach to the state budget."

Montgomery police chief part of national immigration debate
"Outside a Wheaton nightclub last month, police say, a middle-aged Hispanic man watched a driver ram his Toyota Camry into the side of a Honda Accord, get out, stab one of the Accord passengers nearly to death, get back into his Camry and leave," writes The Post's Dan Morse. "The witness wrote down the Camry's license plate number, waited for police and passed along the information. What does that have to do with the nationwide debate over Arizona's tough new immigration law? More than you might think. ... Chief J. Thomas Manger is emerging as a national voice in the debate over immigration laws and policing."

FBI considered move to Greenbelt, court filings suggest
Greenbelt map.gif"Court filings in a lawsuit over stalled plans to build a mixed-used development in Greenbelt reveal that the FBI might at one time have considered moving to Prince George's County," writes The Post's Ovetta Wiggins. "In papers filed by Greenbelt Ventures in its lawsuit against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the development company says that Garth Beall, the managing member of Metroland Developers, had been 'secretly meeting with WMATA and the FBI analyzing a potential use of the WMATA property for the FBI's relocation.'"

Quotables

"At first glance, he already has made an enormous strategic miscalculation by his early cozying up to tea party groups in Maryland. This may be an example of trying to solidify his base, but, in doing so, he is seriously damaging his chances with independents and Democrats, without whom he cannot win."
-- Laslo Boyd, a partner at Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies, in a commentary in Friday's Gazette

"What if George Owings could get a decent shake from the media?"
-- former Ehrlich aide Joe Steffen, in a posting on his "Darkness Rising" blog, in which he poses several provocative questions about the 2010 election season, including one about the other Democrat in the governor's race

"Ten days from now, a spectacular game of high-stakes poker commences in Anne Arundel Circuit Court."
-- Barry Rascovar, in a column in the Gazette in which he previews the coming court battle over a planned slots casino at Arundel Mills mall

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Trust First Click for critical news and analysis you need to navigate Maryland politics. Each Monday and Thursday, First Click brings you The Agenda, a concise, forward-looking analysis of a top development in politics or policy. "News You Should Know" breaks down top stories from across the state. And other features keep you up to speed with power brokers in Annapolis and beyond. Want First Click on the go? Sign up for our free e-mail edition, and get the news delivered to your inbox or mobile device.

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By John Wagner  |  May 17, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  First Click , John Wagner  
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Posted by: AlisaNyx17 | May 17, 2010 7:18 AM | Report abuse

Yet another column, John, full of great facts! Thanks for recognizing Montgomery County and its Republican Party.

Posted by: DANIELVOVAK | May 17, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Republican Party in Moco, where? Using my magnifying glass, I don't see them under that rock, and neither are they under that weed. Oh, by the way, all the politicians in the county are up for elections this year, and there are how many Moco Republicans challenging the Dem incumbents?

Posted by: VikingRider | May 17, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

VikingRider, your point is valid, though, as like there are only maybe 8 slots with people running for office in almost two dozen seats. I am running for county executive, which hasn't had a Republican win since 1974.

Posted by: DANIELVOVAK | May 17, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Ah, Dan "Whigman" Vovak, the lonely Moco Republican. As I recall, all NINE county councilmembers are up for reelection as are th county executive. And, as far as I know, according to published reports and the ubiquitous, all powerful, blogosphere, the entire Moco legislative delegation to aAnnapolise is also up for election this year. My math ain't so good, but that's more than eight slots. BTW then there's US Sen. Mikulski. I think you are the only declared Republican candidate for office in Moco. Good luck.

Posted by: VikingRider | May 17, 2010 7:51 PM | Report abuse

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