Political Commentary by Todd Eberly, Ph.D., Acting Director, Center for the Study of Democracy, St. Mary's College of Maryland
Video of the Ehrlich/O'Malley Debate on Wednesday. Courtesy of the Washington Post.
The debate is over, what a difference from Monday. Ehrlich was focused and on message and I believe that he won the debate. O'Malley's answers to nearly every question were essentially the same as his answers on Monday, rather than seeming polished they seemed rehearsed. Also, during the Monday debate it was clear that neither man liked the other. Today, Ehrlich was much more respectful toward O'Malley, but O'Malley was almost dismissive of Ehrlich.
Ehrlich was also strong in response to the question about O'Malley's reference to "coded language" in the last debate. When asked, O'Malley again suggested that Ehrlich was not friendly to the interest of "poor black" citizens and Ehrlich quickly turned that into a criticism of the sales tax which he said was a regressive tax that hit poor families the hardest.
I wasn't a fan of the "silly" rapid fire questions, but one was revealing. When asked about things people may not know about the candidates and favorite music, Ehrlich had fun with the question. O'Malley revealed that he "works too hard" and passed on the favorite song question. It reinforced this rather cold demeanor that had throughout the debate.
I think O'Malley worst moment was the discussion of pensions for state workers his "I've appointed a commission" answer is wearing thin. Ehrlich clearly stated that defined benefit must end, as it has nearly everywhere for private employees. O'Malley would not commit to ending defined benefit pensions. Mr. Governor, that ship has sailed and this election cycle voters do not want to hear about protecting generous pensions for public employees. O'Malley stumbled.
Ehrlich's weakest moment was actually on the question of the state recognizing same sex marriage. He dismissed the issue before the question was complete. It is a serious matter and deserved more serious treatment. O'Malley's defense was strong, yet O'Malley's record of leadership on the issue is non-existent.
I thought the Ehrlich's closing statement was much stronger this time as well, he was very focused on taxpayers and small business. Stated that O'Malley views citizens as a source of revenue, Ehrlich sees them as a source of jobs. He mentioned rising taxes and collapsing 401(k)s - I think he tapped into the narrative of the national political landscape well.
I give round two to Ehrlich, he was the clear winner of the debate.