Dump a Governor, Find a Talking Head

By Marc Fisher
Thursday, November 9, 2006

Cue the puppy, and heeeere's Mike! Move over, Montel, it's the Michael Steele Show, coming to a TV near you. Gotta be, right? Maryland voters weren't buying the lieutenant governor as a U.S. senator, but his telegenic style and knack for cutting through Washington politispeak make him a natural for a midday gabfest. Every show opens with a "Taking Out the Trash" segment bashing a greedy pol. And bring along those two sons, stars of Steele's last ad.

Continuing our job placement service, Gov. Bobby Haircut is a tougher case. Maryland's gone deep blue once more, sir. Gov. Ehrlich makes a nice impression playing a State House security guard in an episode of HBO's "The Wire" airing next month (the haircut goes just perfectly with the uniform.) But to be frank, we're going to have a rough time finding a job for a guy whose idea of fair play is to hand out a deceiving, insulting and downright racist Election Day campaign flier.

The "Ehrlich-Steele Democrats" pamphlet distributed Tuesday in Baltimore and Prince George's County -- plastered with photos of prominent black Democrats as if those men had endorsed Ehrlich -- put the lie to Republican claims that black voters could find a home in that party. Rather, the GOP made its true assessment of blacks clear: They're morons. (For the record, black voters didn't fall for the Ehrlich-Steele ruse. They voted overwhelmingly for Democrats.)

But we may have something for Maryland's first lady, Kendel Ehrlich, who chose Election Day to demonstrate her deep love for the homeless -- of Philadelphia. Mrs. Ehrlich kindly greeted the guys who were bused in to distribute those sleazy fliers (for $100 and a bunch of doughnuts). Maryland's homeless await Mrs. Ehrlich's gracious support.

As for the governor, there is one possibility: Ehrlich, like Steele and Virginia's Sen. George Allen, largely cordoned himself off from the news media in this campaign, choosing instead to focus on his narrowing base via conservative talk radio. Ehrlich's casual, freewheeling style made him an attractive figure on Baltimore's WBAL radio, which may be interested in adding him to its talk roster.

"He'd be slumming," says Chip Franklin, the station's midday host, who doesn't exactly sound fearful for his job, "and he'd have to take a pay cut. But he does have talk radio down."

If the WBAL job doesn't pan out, watch for Ehrlich to make his living closer to Washington, where the money and power are. The demographic and economic oomph of the D.C. suburbs is finally yielding fruit in Maryland politics: Residents of Montgomery and Prince George's counties will now sit in three of the state's top four jobs: Anthony Brown as lieutenant governor, Peter Franchot as comptroller and Doug Gansler as attorney general. Baltimore's political dominance is breaking down; we will not soon see another governor's race devoted largely to discussing Baltimore municipal matters.

But while Democrats extend their sway in Maryland -- with black migration into Charles County creating new home turf for the party, and Montgomery dumping its last remaining Republican officeholders -- Northern Virginia's outer suburbs are playing harder to get.

Even as Democrat Jim Webb's Senate candidacy swept Northern Virginia, Republicans held on to their congressional seats and to the top job in Prince William. Webb's margins were huge inside the Beltway, matched only by the wave of opposition to the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Arlington went 73 percent for Webb and 74 percent against the amendment, but it was a different story in the outer ring of suburbs: Slim majorities in Loudoun and Prince William put Webb over the top at the end of a long night, but those counties gave clear majorities to the marriage amendment.

The Virginia that rejected Allen's crude attempt to slime his opponent with sex scenes from Webb's novels is a complex place, but it is increasingly a state divided between the D.C. suburbs and everywhere else. Eventually, Republicans will have to moderate their appeal and reach out to the Washington area, perhaps even picking a statewide candidate from this region. Rep. Tom Davis hopes that will happen when Sen. John Warner steps down.

Now, the easy part of our employment service, temp jobs for Virginia's favorite advocates of symbolic footwear, cowboy-booted Allen and combat-booted Webb. The two get to keep on running for the Senate. The Allen-Webb race could morph into a six-week trek through the ballots, bytes and legal bills of Recount Land.

But in the end, Webb's slim lead looks likely to hold, and Allen will need something more permanent. Relocation to Iowa or New Hampshire no longer being an option, we need to focus locally. The Redskins could use help, and Allen has some background in that field, but right now, the team needs something more than pep talks along the lines of "Let's enjoy knocking their soft teeth down their whiny throats."

It turns out that Allen, despite his frequent disparagement of Hollywood elites, has movie experience, a cameo as a Confederate officer in the 2003 flick "Gods and Generals." That big goofy smile and his faux-Southern shtick could land him, like Steele and Ehrlich, in the media biz.

And you thought your TVs were finally safe from these guys.

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