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Is Ehrlich forming a government in exile?

April 27, 2007

Some people are calling it a sour-grapes move by a man who can't accept the voters' verdict, but if former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich wants to keep his campaign office open and spread his message, good for him.

Ehrlich's decision became public after he sent out an April 20 fund-raising letter that ripped the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Money raised could be used for another race for state office or just to communicate with what spokesman Henry Fawell said was a network of supporters Ehrlich has built up over the years.

But here is why this is really not a bad idea: The Republican Party is in the minority in the Maryland General Assembly. If GOP members hope to get anything more than crumbs, they can't be too pointed in their criticism of the administration.

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Ehrlich, however, has no constituents to serve and thus can say what is on his mind. However, this is where he must be careful.

It would be easy to toss the red meat of conservative rhetoric to his donors and build a war chest for a run four years from now.

But Ehrlich would better serve himself - and the citizens of the state - by offering well-researched, thoughtful critiques of the O'Malley administration's activities and proposed solutions to problems facing the state.

Ehrlich could also surprise the Democrats by doing the unexpected and praising O'Malley when such is warranted. By showing citizens that he is a fair and reasonable person, Ehrlich would only enhance his credibility.

To make this effort successful, Ehrlich has another task - learning to work with the press. He will have the disadvantage of being a private citizen instead of the head of state government, so when he makes a statement or offers an idea, he has to realize he won't get much ink unless his ideas are research-based and well-thought-out.

Possible issues he could explore include: How other states have dealt with the "structural deficit" that faces Maryland without taxing citizens excessively, how other states have cut health care costs among the poor by keying on prevention and how other states have cleaned up their waterways without placing an unfair burden on farmers.

Former governors still like to be addressed by that title, so we'll give Ehrlich that courtesy here, along with some advice.

Governor, you're on the outside looking in now. Reasonable criticism and sensible solutions will get you a second look, as opposed to ranting and raving about the evil things the fellow who defeated you is doing.

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