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First Click, Maryland:
Who won the first O'Malley-Ehrlich debate?
... Ask the campaigns

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010:

The Agenda
Aaron.jpgMoments after Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. (R) on Monday finished closing remarks in their first Maryland gubernatorial debate, the 25 reporters crammed into a listening room nearby received a blast e-mail containing the answer to the one question that the campaigns and pundits would all want to know: Who won?

"O'Malley wins first debate with focus on tough choices, optimistic vision to move Maryland forward," read the all-caps subject line.

debate-wjz.jpgThe e-mail went on to explain that O'Malley won by "leveling with Marylanders about the tough choices we've made to move our economy forward" while "by contrast, Bob Ehrlich struggled to lay out a clear vision for the next four years..."

A couple of reporters chuckled and kept typing. The e-mail was sent from Mark Giangreco, a spokesman for the O'Malley campaign. Reporters knew it was a matter of time before the next one would arrive:

"Ehrlich scores decisive win in first debate," began the counteroffensive e-mail from the Ehrlich camp. "Bob Ehrlich today proved to be the only candidate in the race to make job creation his first priority for Maryland families. On the other hand, Governor O'Malley defended the largest tax increase in Maryland history..."

Such campaign spin is hardly new. Before it was disseminated easily over BlackBerry devices and WiFi, campaign staffers would haul in printers, copiers and before that inky Xerox machines to spit out their two cents about opponent's "lies" to reporters in real time during debates.

But the rapid-fire e-mails on Monday said at least three things about the state of Maryland's gubernatorial race with three weeks remaining before Nov. 2.

First, with O'Malley leading in recent polls and still holding a significant money advantage to get his message out over the airwaves, Ehrlich appears aggressive in trying to use an expanding slate of debates to connect with voters and to answer O'Malley's ads.

The two leading candidates appear set to debate far more than they did four years ago. Following Monday's face-off at the studios of WJZ in Baltimore, Ehrlich and O'Malley agreed to a debate to be hosted Thursday by Washington Post Live and two media partners, WAMU 88.5 and WUSA Channel 9.

Two more radio debates will follow next week.

Debate-WJZ-APPhoto.jpgSecond, barring some unforeseen, shocking development in the next three weeks, the e-mails encapsulate the messages that will either win or lose the race.

The subject line of the O'Malley campaign message alone conveys the bulk of the governor's platform: He's made tough choices during the recession, and has kept the state on a path be optimistic about the future. (it leaves out that O'Malley also says he's helped make Maryland schools No. 1 and made other significant improvements in crime and other areas while governor).

Ehrlich's e-mail similarly cuts to the core of his campaign: he says that he'll be a better governor at creating jobs and that, essentially, O'Malley cannot be trusted. As the e-mail reads, O'Malley continues to "make stuff up and change the subject from his legacy of massive job losses, record tax increases and ballooning budgets."

Thirdly, after reading and reviewing hundreds of e-mails from both campaigns in the last six months, there was another difference that continued to stand out on Monday. The O'Malley e-mail buzzed in on my BlackBerry at 11:20; the Ehrlich one 29 minutes later at 11:49.

The half-hour gap is emblematic of a stark difference in the level of organization, planning, media outreach and messaging that has existed between the two candidates' campaigns for months.

On Monday, scores of lime-green O'Malley signs lined the roadway to the debate, a mob of dozens of green-clad campaign staffers and supporters crowded the front entrance of the television studio, and the O'Malley's campaign brought in Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and an A-list of Maryland Democrats to sit in the audience and praise the governor's performance afterward for on-air interviews. At another appearance on Monday for the two candidates, at the Maryland Disabilities Forum, the O'Malley campaign arrived with more than $500 worth of campaign materials -- complete with large-type and Braille editions for the blind.

The 11:20 a.m. e-mail also fit with O'Malley's at times aggressive campaign mode in recent months. It arrived almost before the candidates had stood up from their seats in the television studio.

By contrast, Ehrlich's e-mail arrived later, after reporters had staked out the rear, service entrance to the studio to catch the former governor before he was whisked away -- out of sight of the gathering out front of O'Malley supporters.

-- Aaron C. Davis

News You Should Know

A radical revision for Montgomery County's Elrich
MarcElrich.jpg"There's no doubting Marc Elrich's counterculture cred. He was 12 when he went to his first peace rally in 1961. A few years later, when he got to the University of Maryland, he promptly helped take over the philosophy building. He's been arrested at an anti-apartheid protest. He's run a natural food co-op. He pushed Takoma Park to declare itself a nuclear-free zone and served 10 terms on that activist enclave's City Council. So when Elrich unexpectedly won a seat on the Montgomery County Council four years ago, he was widely seen as a tie-dyed-in-the-wool liberal warrior, the anti-business darling of the county's most radical corner," writes The Post's Steve Hendrix. "So how come they suddenly love him in Poolesville?"

Debate Fact Check: O'Malley vs. Ehrlich on job creation
Ehrlich: "We have not created one net new job in this state over the past four years ... we've doubled our unemployment rate."
O'Malley: "The truth of the matter is we have actually created 33,000 net new jobs." He credits that figure to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The facts: Maryland has lost jobs since O'Malley took office, a reflection of a national trend, write The Sun's Annie Linskey and Julie Bykowicz. "The state's employers have added 33,200 positions since January 2010. O'Malley frequently mentions those increases on the campaign trail in an effort to stress a job-creation trend that started in March and April. But job creation slowed in the ensuing months and moved to negative territory in July and August, when Maryland lost positions. January is also a useful point for O'Malley to start -- it is the low-water mark for jobs in Maryland."

Tickets available for Post debate
debate-wpost.GIFGov. Martin O'Malley (D) and former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) will face off at noon in front of an audience in the auditorium of The Washington Post in the District. The heavily Democratic Washington suburbs are crucial to the bids of both candidates for governor. O'Malley is seeking to bolster turnout in Prince George's County, where President Obama appeared with him at a rally Thursday. Ehrlich is seeking to improve his performance in Montgomery, which has significant numbers of independents and Republicans despite its reputation as a Democratic bastion. Tickets for The Post debate are free but must be obtained in advance. They are available by registering online at www.washingtonpostlive.com. Seating availability is limited.
The debate will also be streamed live on www.washingtonpostlive.com and WUSA9.com. WUSA Channel 9, Washington's CBS affiliate, will broadcast the debate live and rebroadcast it at 7 p.m. on its digital channel. WAMU 88.5 FM, a National Public Radio affiliate, will broadcast the debate at 8 p.m.

Three University of Md. students injured in quadruple stabbing
Four young adults, three of them students at the University of Maryland, were stabbed early Tuesday during an altercation that began in an off-campus bar and spilled onto the street, police said. None of the wounds were life-threatening.


Quotables

One of the sharpest exchanges in Monday's debate was over education for the students in poor, black areas of the state:

Ehrlich: This is really emotional, Gov. When you have schools that are graduating or not graduating 85 percent of their kids and you have kids achieving 6 and 8 and 12 percent pass rates, those kids of color are being denied their constitutional rights. That's intolerable and unacceptable in the state of Maryland, the United States of America in 2010, 2006, whatever.

O'Malley: Why don't you ever mention the places where kids are making progress? You always talk, Bob, in very coded language about kids who aren't succeeding. Frankly, I will put our progress up in the city of Baltimore and our rate of improvement up against any kids in any major city in America.

-----

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  | October 12, 2010; 6:14 AM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis, First Click  
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Next: First Click, Maryland
The facts behind the debate's DNA claims

Comments

I found erlich's use of "gov" to be deliberately disrespectful. I would not vote for him specifically because I dislike petty people, oh and he's a corporate lobbyist.

Posted by: davidtroy | October 12, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

I'm still trying to figure out why Ehrlich is running for Governor when his aleady been the Governor. There is nothing new he can add to being Governor again. I think Governor O'Malley has done a good job of running the state of Maryland since he became the Governor.

Posted by: ania2007 | October 12, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

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