In rematch for governor, Ehrlich trails O'Malley in fundraising

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, left, says he has $6.7 million; opponent Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. did not release a campaign total.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, left, says he has $6.7 million; opponent Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. did not release a campaign total. (Brian Witte - AP)
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By Aaron C. Davis and John Wagner
Thursday, August 12, 2010

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said Wednesday that he has $6.7 million in the bank, a war chest that is probably double that of former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) as they head into the final months of their rematch.

O'Malley announced that he had raised $3.3 million during a fundraising period that began in January, bolstering his cash on hand by $1 million in a seven-month stretch during which he has started spending significantly on TV ads.

Ehrlich, who had little money in the bank when he announced his candidacy in April, on Wednesday declined to release a total for the period. Earlier in the week, his campaign announced a target of $3 million for the period that ended Tuesday. Ehrlich acknowledged to reporters that he would have less money to spend than O'Malley, who, he said, had "a 3 1/2 -year head start."

Detailed reports are due to the State Board of Elections next week. In announcing his fundraising total before Ehrlich, O'Malley was the first entrant in the inevitable spin game about what the figures mean heading into November.

"Today's report clearly shows that Gov. O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Brown have the momentum heading into the final months of the campaign," O'Malley campaign manager Tom Russell said in a statement.

Arriving at an event in Dundalk on Wednesday morning, Ehrlich said his fundraising total was ahead of what his campaign had planned and would "show momentum."

"We did pretty good out of the gates," Ehrlich said. "It's tough to raise money against a Democratic incumbent governor in Maryland."

Ehrlich said he thought money would be less important than in the 2006 race, in which he raised more than O'Malley but lost by 6.5 percentage points.

"In a perfect world, would I want more money? Of course," Ehrlich said during an event at which he highlighted a sales tax increase during O'Malley's tenure. "But this is a cycle that may not be a money-driven cycle. . . . I do not in my heart believe this will be a race where money comes in and wins it."

Even if Ehrlich's fundraising surpasses O'Malley's $3.3 million for the reporting period that ended Tuesday, it's likely that O'Malley has a two-to-one lead or greater in cash on hand to spend during the final three months of the race, when costs will escalate on both sides.

In January -- the last time candidates were required to report fundraising totals -- O'Malley had $5.7 million in the bank. He was not permitted by law to raise money during the legislative session, which ended in April, but has aggressively sought funds since then. O'Malley also has started airing TV ads in the Baltimore market.

In January, Ehrlich had only $151,529 in an account he had kept open since his 2006 loss to O'Malley. Although he has not yet aired TV ads -- among the costliest expenses of a campaign -- Ehrlich does appear to be spending a fair amount of money on staff, office space and social-media outreach.

Four years ago, O'Malley raised more than Ehrlich during the same seven-month stretch, but Ehrlich had a cash-on-hand advantage over O'Malley of $8.7 million to $5.1 million at this point in the campaign.

Ehrlich "hasn't raised even half of the resources that he had in 2006, when he was voted out of office," Russell said.

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