Now or Never, Says St. Marys College Professor
ST. MARYS CITY, Md. (Dec. 10, 2009) The biggest question in Maryland politics today is whether former governor Bob Ehrlich will seek a rematch with Governor Martin OMalley in 2010. Ehrlich has given few clues, but St. Marys College of Maryland (SMCM) political science professor Todd Eberly says that looking at all that has changed in Maryland since 2002 when Ehrlich became the states first Republican governor in a generation, now could be his best chance. According to Eberly, Maryland Democrats have added more than 384,000 new voters to their ranks since 2002, while the Republican ranks grew by only 73,000. These numbers should matter to Ehrlich given that he lost to OMalley by nearly 117,000, says Eberly, adding that any strategist must question how that margin of loss could be overcome when the Democrats ranks have been growing by a five-to-one margin over Republicans.
Eberly decided to examine Ehrlichs chances should he seek a rematch. Ehrlichs road back to Annapolis would be steep but not insurmountable. said Eberly. The success of his journey would likely rely as much on national political trends as it would on issues specific to Maryland.
Using an analysis of voter registration data, voter turnout, Democratic and Republican performance, and voter loyalty in the last four gubernatorial elections, Eberly determined that the Democratic Partys overwhelming registration advantage is no guarantor of victory. Despite their advantage, Democrats barely won in 1994 and Ehrlich won in 2002, said Eberly. He went on to explain that high rates of Democratic turnout tend to boost Republican performance, suggesting that many registered Democrats are not loyal to the party. Eberly also noted that in the years that local Republicans did their best1994 and 2002there was also strong support for the Republican Party nationally. Based on current political trends, Eberly believes that 2010 will be a similarly good year for Republicans.
The Democratic Partys registration advantage has grown in recent years, and Ehrlich would need to maximize Republican turnout, appeal to the growing number of Independent voters, and draw out Republican-leaning Democrats, said Eberly. He sees the recent Republican victories in New Jersey and Virginia as an indication that Republican voters are energized and that Independents are gravitating to the GOP. In an equally bad sign for Democrats, recent gains in Democratic Party registration in New Jersey and Virginia largely driven by the 2008 Democratic primary contest failed to materialize as voters in 2009. Its possible that many people registered Democrat simply to participate in an historic primary. If thats the case, then the Democrats registration advantage in Maryland may be overstated.
But Ehrlichs return to Annapolis would be far from guaranteed, warned Eberly. He simulated an Ehrlich/OMalley rematch and found that even under the conditions that produced the narrow GOP loss in 1994 and the Ehrlich victory in 2002, Ehrlich would lose to OMalley in 2010. But when he accounted for the possibility that the Democrats registration advantage is over-stated, he found that Ehrlich would win under either a 1994 or 2002 scenario. In the end, Eberly believed that Ehrlich would have a tough fight, but that 2010 provides him with his best chance at winning statewide office in Maryland. For Ehrlich, it may be now or never.
Full details of Eberlys analysis can be found at the official blog of the political science department at SMCM, FreeStater Blog: http://freestaterblog.blogspot.com/.