Correction to This Article
A map depicting the countywide results of the Maryland governor's race incorrectly identified Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) as leading the vote count in Baltimore County. As of press time Nov. 3, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) led O'Malley in the county by 203 votes. According to the most recent count, on Nov. 12, O'Malley defeated Ehrlich in Baltimore County by 1,305 votes. The final vote count will be certified Nov. 19 by the Maryland State Board of Elections.

Murky message, less money hurt Ehrlich

Former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. conceded the governor's race in a brief speech to his supporters at the Maryland State Fairgrounds.
By John Wagner and Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 11:08 PM

Election Day could hardly have gone more differently for the two titans of Maryland politics.

Gov. Martin O'Malley not only withstood a Republican wave that battered other Democrats nationwide but also won the governor's race by the largest margin in two decades and boosted his profile within the national Democratic Party.

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s election as governor in 2002 was hailed as the rebirth of the Maryland Republican Party. After his second loss to O'Malley in four years, the 2002 win now looks more like an anomaly.

Their divergent paths say a lot about how solid blue Maryland has become. But Tuesday's results also reflect a race in which O'Malley made the most of a substantial fundraising advantage and skillfully painted his GOP challenger as the tax-and-spend candidate, while Ehrlich struggled to deliver a consistent message.

"Ehrlich was viewed as an incumbent in an anti-incumbent year, and this is Maryland," said Don Murphy, a Republican consultant and former state delegate, alluding to the 2-to-1 Democratic advantage in party registration. "I guess 2002 looks more like a fluke with each passing year."

O'Malley was one of only four Democratic incumbent governors certain to keep his job after Tuesday's election. Republicans wrested away at least 11 governorships that had been filled by Democrats.

In May, the month after Ehrlich announced his comeback bid, an O'Malley victory in Maryland hardly seemed a given: A Washington Post poll found the race to be a dead heat, with more voters saying they trusted the former governor on taxes and the economy.

On Tuesday, O'Malley prevailed by nearly 14 percentage points - 56 percent to 42 percent - largely on the strength of lopsided wins in the heavily Democratic Washington suburbs.

Ehrlich also failed to sufficiently energize his core voters. In vote-rich Baltimore County, home to many blue-collar Democrats, O'Malley fought Ehrlich to a near draw.

Appearing Wednesday in Annapolis, O'Malley attributed his victory both to his attacks on Ehrlich's fiscal record and his commitment to issues that Democrats care about, despite the unfavorable national climate.

"We never backed away from progressive values and the importance of progress in tough times," O'Malley said, alluding to promises to continue record funding of public education, pursue mass transit projects and maintain environmental initiatives.

Ehrlich did not appear in public Wednesday, but he e-mailed supporters remarks that echoed those at an election-night gathering: "This campaign closes a chapter in my life. Kendel and I will return to private life, and a new generation of like-minded Marylanders will carry the torch in the years ahead."

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