As endorsements go, it will stand as one of the shortest-lived in recent political history.

It began with a banner headline in Tuesday's Washington Times: "Ehrlich Pushes Steele as His Successor." The accompanying story came from a luncheon Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) had hosted at the governor's mansion for the paper's editors and reporters. According to Ehrlich, someone asked him whether he wanted to see his lieutenant governor, Michael S. Steele, succeed him.

"In order to get Mike in there, we have to win, we [Republicans] have to increase our numbers in the General Assembly, we have to continue the cultural changes," Ehrlich was quoted as saying.

Later Tuesday, when asked about the story, Ehrlich allowed that his anointing might be a tad premature.

"Maybe that would be a headline for 2009," said Ehrlich, who is planning to seek reelection in 2006. "I'm not going anywhere. . . . I'm not letting [Steele] measure the windows in my office for drapes just yet."

Careful What You Ask

In recent appearances around the state, Ehrlich has taken to urging audiences to "be dangerous."

The phrase is his shorthand for encouraging interest groups to be more active in the political process and to hold legislators accountable for their votes.

The word choice doesn't always seem to work, however.

For example, he recently used the phrase when addressing doctors about malpractice insurance.

It popped up again last week in remarks on homeland security at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville.

"Become an active participant," he urged the students, "become a dangerous person in America."

Drug Cost Support Sought

A Maryland health care advocate is asking the two major presidential nominees for a commitment to allow the state a little leeway in lowering the cost of prescription drugs.

Vincent DeMarco, president of Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative, wrote to President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) seeking support for two federal waivers. One would grant Maryland permission to import cheaper drugs from Canada; the other would permit the state to expand a program that allows low-income seniors to buy drugs at the discounted costs available through Maryland's Medicaid program.

DeMarco has scheduled a press conference for tomorrow to share the responses he has received from the presidential campaigns. "If we don't get anything from either candidate, we'll say that," he said.

DeMarco's group coordinates a consumer health care coalition that claims the backing of 1,100 organizations. His latest effort has grown out of frustration with federal initiatives to curb drug costs, which hit the elderly particularly hard.

Reports have suggested that fewer than 10 percent of the 41 million seniors eligible for a new federal drug discount card have signed up. The card is among the early reforms included in the Medicare overhaul bill signed by Bush last year.

States and localities across the nation are continuing to offer a patchwork of smaller initiatives to try to fill the breach. But the experience of Montgomery County underscores the challenge in getting federal permission to proceed.

Last week, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) asked Ehrlich to apply for a waiver that would allow the state to skirt a federal ban on importing drugs from Canada. An official from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration threw cold water on the plan, saying the law would not allow it.

DeMarco's letter to the presidential nominees essentially asks for the same thing. Last year, both chambers of the General Assembly passed slightly different bills seeking such a waiver. Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George's) plans to push the measure again when the legislature reconvenes in January.

The other piece of DeMarco's plan is modeled after a Maine initiative that allowed seniors and others without prescription drug coverage to obtain lower drug prices available under Medicaid. An initiative championed by House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) makes that possible for certain low-income seniors in Maryland. The federal waiver that DeMarco is seeking would significantly expand the eligibility of the program.

Democrats Honor Own

The Maryland Democratic Party honored three of its own Monday night at an annual awards dinner that also featured John J. Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, as its keynote speaker.

The honorees were:

* Parren J. Mitchell, the first black member of Congress from Maryland;

* Belkis Leong-Hong, a former high-level Defense Department official; and

* The Rev. Kerry A. Hill, a former state delegate.

Among the Democratic notables on hand were two of the party's likely candidates for governor in 2006, Duncan and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, both of whom helped with award presentations.

With the presidential election approaching, there was also plenty of red meat on the menu. Sweeney told the roughly 400 in attendance that Bush "doesn't give a damn" about working-class Americans.