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12 days until the Maryland elections

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Thursday, October 21, 2010:

The Agenda

WagnerMaryland's two leading gubernatorial candidates are scheduled to debate again today at 8 a.m. Once that ends, the day's political calendar will be dominated by some of Gov. Martin O'Malley's most-recognizable friends.

Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to attend an early afternoon fundraiser for O'Malley (D) in Chevy Chase. After that, former President Bill Clinton is coming to Baltimore for a late afternoon rally and another fundraiser for O'Malley.

While national politicians routinely make these kind of visits, the presence of Biden and Clinton say something about O'Malley's ability to cultivate relationships with people in positions to help him.

O'Malley, who is trying to fend off a challenge from former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), has known Biden since O'Malley's days as mayor of Baltimore. While attending the same event, he and Biden hit it off after discovering they had mutual friends from the Irish music scene in Wilmington, Del., where O'Malley's Celtic rock band, O'Malley's March, used to make regular appearances.

Thumbnail image for Biden smiling-thumb.jpgAs vice president, Biden has come to Maryland several times to promote Obama administration priorities. O'Malley and his staff have helped select appropriate venues, including a bus facility in Landover and a historic train station in Laurel. Today's visit is the second fundraiser in recent months that Biden has done for O'Malley's re-election.

Clinton, meanwhile, played an important role in O'Malley 2006 defeat of Ehrlich. In the closing days of the campaign, the former president appeared in a television ad on O'Malley's behalf, urging Marylanders to support "my good friend," and went to Prince George's County for a well-attended late-night rally for O'Malley and other Democrats.

O'Malley's relationship with Bill and Hillary Clinton blossomed in 2000, with O'Malley's Irish heritage playing a role here, too. O'Malley, as mayor of Baltimore, joined a presidential delegation traveling to Northern Ireland.

BillClinton.jpgO'Malley became heavily involved in the following years with the Democratic Leadership Council, a centrist group that had served as the incubator for much of Bill Clinton's agenda. And after the 2001 terrorist attacks, O'Malley worked with then-Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York on homeland security issues. O'Malley carved out a niche on the issue, citing the proximity of Baltimore's port to Washington.

Early in 2007, O'Malley became the second sitting governor to announce his support for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid. The two Democrats addressed reporters and other onlookers at Annapolis's City Dock. Clinton spoke at length, without notes, about O'Malley's tenure as mayor and also praised his early days as governor.

The closest thing Ehrlich has to the Clintons is former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), who campaigned in Maryland for the former governor in both 2002 and 2006. He'll be back on Sunday, for a rally in Clarksburg, which is being billed on Facebook as "the largest statewide rally of the campaign."

Bill Clinton will no doubt have kind things to say about O'Malley during today's rally in Federal Hill Park, and Giuliani will no doubt put in some good words Sunday for his friend, Bob.

We expect the tone in this morning's debate to be far less civil. Ehrlich and O'Malley are engaging in a hourlong radio debate on Baltimore's WOLB-AM hosted by Larry Young, a former state senator.

It would be surprising if the candidates don't revisit some of the most touchy topics of previous debates, including the performance of Baltimore schools, O'Malley's policing tactics as mayor and the Ehrlich camp's busing in of homeless men from Philadelphia on Election Day 2006 to hand out misleading literature at the polls.

We'll have more for you on all that as it unfolds.

-- John Wagner

News You Should Know

Ehrlich has worked with, against Md.'s Democratic majorities
Ehrlich pre-debate.jpg"Nineteen months after Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was voted out of office, fans of the former Maryland governor packed an auditorium for the unveiling of an official portrait that showed, quite literally, how he would like his time in Annapolis to be remembered," writes The Post's John Wagner. "Ehrlich is depicted sitting casually on his desk, where three pieces of signed legislation are visible. The bills launched Maryland's charter schools program, created a fund to upgrade the state's wastewater treatment plants and established a Cabinet-level department to help people with disabilities. Those laws are part of Ehrlich's legacy, but even he says they offer a rather incomplete picture of his four rancor-filled years as Maryland's first Republican governor in a generation."

Democrats warn of the possibility of more dirty tricks
md-dems.jpgMaryland Democrats on Wednesday held a press conference in Baltimore warning of "voter intimidation," "voter suppression" and more in an event that appeared designed to work up the Democratic party base and put the campaign of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. on notice that it will be watched closely this year for any repeat attempts to deceive African American voters. Democrats at the event rehashed the episode from four years ago when some 300 poor and homeless African Americans from Philadelphia were driven to Maryland and paid to hand out brochures labeled "Democratic Sample Ballot." The ballots had boxes checked for Ehrlich and Senate candidate Michael S. Steele, and did not identify the two as Republicans. Former Ehrlich aide Joe Steffen (whom Ehrlich fired while in office saying Steffen was responsible for spreading rumors about then-Mayor O'Malley) also rehashed the incident in a recent blog post that has tickled Democrats because it suggests Ehrlich's team was responsible for the scandal. There is no evidence that Ehrlich's campaign has used or would use similar tactics this year, but Democrats are keying off of a line in an Ehrlich campaign e-mail posted on another blog to suggest the Ehrlich campaign is already up to no good. The e-mail derides the results of one of The Post's polls, saying the paper's assumptions about young Democrat and African American turnout are both "implausible and impossible." -- Aaron C. Davis

Perryville casinos rakes in $2 million in four days
Thumbnail image for PerryvilleCasinoDrawing.jpg"Maryland's first slots casino got off the dime quickly, generating more than $2 million in revenue during its first four days of operation, state officials said Wednesday," writes The Post's Wagner. "Hollywood Casino Perryville, located in the state's northeastern corner, opened three days ahead of schedule on Sept. 27 with 1,500 slot machines. According to Maryland Lottery officials, the machines generated nearly $346 per day per machine in gross gaming revenue in the final days of September, well ahead of state projections of $210 per machine per day at the facility."

Quotables

"Ehrlich is the best candidate to take on Maryland's unavoidable financial problems, all while maintaining quality schools, investing in vital transportation improvements, protecting basic human and health services and restoring a can-do business climate."
-- the Gazette editorial Wednesday endorsing former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) for another term over Gov. Martin O'Malley (D)

"Voters should return Ehrlich to Annapolis to end this nonsense."
-- a Washington Examiner editorial Wednesday endorsing former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) for another term over Gov. Martin O'Malley (D)

Thumbnail image for Ehrlich Vatz 2.jpg"I am now going to present you with the candidate for Governor whom I first invited to be a guest speaker in my class 18 years ago when I noted that, as a conservative, all of then-State Representative Ehrlich's positions were similar to my own. As I mentioned, he has been a guest every year, twice a year since, including his years as Governor."
-- Towson University professor Richard E. Vatz, in remarks welcoming former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) to his "upper-level course Persuasion" this week, as posted on the Red Maryland blog, to which Vatz is a contributor

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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 John Wagner  | October 21, 2010; 5:45 AM ET
Categories:  First Click, John Wagner  
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Next: O'Malley and Ehrlich spar over health care, education and minority issues

Comments

Wagner, if we are bottom-feeding for news then why don't you tell us about your collection of O'Malley's March cds?

Posted by: h20andoil | October 21, 2010 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Say what you will about OMalleys politics, however, as a singer of Irish folk songs, and guitar player, he is GREAT. I've seen him individually perform and his group, you can't help but have a good time. I love guitar and folk songs so I'll put our current guv up against anybody, he is a heck of a guitar picker and singer.

Posted by: VikingRider | October 21, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

I thought conservatives all have fits when "liberal" profs "brainwash" students. What the heck is Vatz doing?

Posted by: unrest | October 22, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

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