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First Click, Maryland:
With RGA money, is Md. gov's race going national?

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010:

The Agenda
Aaron.jpgAs reported first in today's Washington Post, the deep-pocketed Republican Governors Association has stepped into Maryland's gubernatorial race. Countering the launch of Gov. Martin O'Malley's first costly television ad in the Washington region with one of its own (and a new Web site), saying the buy shows the party thinks the race is winnable for former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. The Democratic Governors Association, of which O'Malley is vice chair, says it will soon jump in on the left.

2010-ad-omalley-education.jpgSo after months of relative obscurity, is Maryland's gubernatorial race heading for the national stage?

There are enough reasons to think it may. O'Malley and Ehrlich both have deep connections within their national party establishments and in the shadow of Washington, the race could quickly take on the feel of a back-yard brawl.

It's one that so far the DNC and the White House have not seemed to worry too much about. But it's also certainly one they would not want to lose. After Virginia went to Gov. Robert F. McDonnell in the fall, a loss in Maryland would flank DC with resurgent Republicans. And in the wake of Delaware and other unforeseen upsets this fall, even left-leaning Maryland may be a battleground that national Democratic strategists decide they can't take for granted.

For their part, the RGA seems not only interested in seeing if it can move Maryland poll numbers for Ehrlich, but also in taking the fight to Democrats on their home turf.

Cook Political Report senior analyst Jennifer Duffy puts 16 of the nation's 35 gubernatorial races in the "toss up" column, but with Tuesday's expenditure, the RGA has in recent weeks poured money into television ads in all three - Maryland, Maine and Hawaii - that Cook lists as "lean Democratic." RGA is currently on the air, or recently funded commercials in only five of the 16 toss-up states. (Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia and Vermont).

But will there be a full-on counter assault by Democrats? Will President Obama start appearing in Maryland? Duffy says it could be a tricky balancing act for the White House.

"The president isn't going to a whole lot of places where the party isn't in trouble," Duffy said. If he does come to Maryland, "I'd take such a visit that this race is really close."

-- Aaron C. Davis


Breaking Down the Issues:

Today, The Washington Post's Maryland politics team launches a six-week video series leading up to the November election. Each week we'll break down a key issue for voters, telling you the facts as we know them, and giving each candidate a chance to tell their side, in their words.

Our first installment looks at education. Test scores are up, and Maryland gets high marks in education surveys (we dissected those in a story recently). But achievement gaps remain. So which candidate will do a better job at continuing to improve the state's schools? Watch, and you decide.


More Ads, and other News You Should Know

Mikulski first ad focuses on jobs
"Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) is on the air with the first television ad of her reelection campaign, projecting a positive message focused on creating "new economy jobs" for Maryland," writes The Post's Ben Pershing. "Mikulski is heavily favored to win a fifth term against Queen Anne's County Commissioner Eric Wargotz, a physician who beat 10 opponents to secure the Republican nomination in last week's primary. Wargotz has already been on the air attacking Mikulski, but the incumbent's first ad focuses on her own record, not her opponent."

Also, the Ehrlich campaign has created a new online video, mocking O'Malley for tax increases during his term.

O'Malley proposes $90 million for new light-rail projects
"The O'Malley administration is proposing an infusion of almost $90 million for engineering of two new transit systems -- including Baltimore's east-west Red Line -- as part of an otherwise flat $9.4 billion transportation spending plan for the next six years," writes The Sun's Michael Dresser. "Unlike plans of the past two years, the 2011-2016 Consolidated Transportation Program is not a litany of recession-related deferrals of transportation expansion and maintenance projects. 'The great news is we didn't have to cut. That's what I'd like to shout from the rooftops,' Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley said Monday. She unveiled the draft version of the plan in Towson at the first of a series of meetings held annually across the state.


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Trust First Click for critical news and analysis you need to navigate Maryland politics each weekday. You can also find First Click on Facebook and Twitter.

By Aaron C. Davis  | September 21, 2010; 7:30 AM ET
Categories:  First Click  
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