Volume 13, Issue 42 ~ October 20 - October 26, 2005


Democratic Challenge: Duncan’s Strategy For Dunkin’ O’Malley

When Doug Duncan declared his candidacy for governor this week, Marylanders had two questions:

Who is he? And how badly will he try to carve up Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley in the Democratic primary contest for the right to take on Gov. Robert Ehrlich next November?

Duncan, the Montgomery County executive, set about answering the first question by scheduling stops in Annapolis and around the state and by mailing out 3,000 DVDs chock full of biographical information to activists and party stalwarts.

But only time will tell the tenor of his campaign, which could go a long way to determining Maryland’s next governor.

The threat to Democrats is that the primary campaign will be so costly and bruising that the candidate left standing will be crippled for the general election.

The choice of campaign strategy could be a fateful one and not just for Duncan, who trails O’Malley substantially in early polls and who, given Ehrlich’s base of support, at first blush seems a less geographically appealing challenger.

Before long, a media consultant will whisper in Duncan’s ear that he needs to “drive up O’Malley’s negatives” in polls. That means trotting out a so-called comparative ad or two that may have only vague connections to truth.

What will be his reply?
That said, we want to hear what Duncan has to say about Maryland’s future and not just slogans like Maryland … think bigger. (What does that ellipsis stand for, big fella?)

A gubernatorial nomination is not O’Malley’s birthright, and we’re among those eager to see Duncan test his mettle.

In the past, O’Malley’s judgment has come into question. We were stunned earlier this year when, in a National Press Club speech, he likened the White House budget cuts to the 9-11 terrorist attacks. O’Malley’s brain may think that, but it’s not the sort of thing that comes out of the mouth of a mainstream politician.

We’re eager, too, to hear what both Duncan and O’Malley have to say about caring for Chesapeake Bay. With his flush tax, Ehrlich has partially inoculated himself against the presumption that he shares the anti-environment bent of some of his GOP brethren in Washington.

So Democrats will need to be creative in their solutions.

That’s a whole lot better than being creative in slash-and-burn attacks.

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