I heard it from a friend of mine that Wayne Gilchrest, our so-called Republican Congressman, went out and pledged his support for Democrat Barack Obama today. This according to a Politico.com article from Ryan Grim at The Crypt blog that came up just after noon today, which in turn led me to this from WYPR-FM in Baltimore. Quoting Wayne:
“My perspective is that the ticket is Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden that they have the breadth of experience, I think they are prudent, they are knowledgeable. We just can’t use four more years of the same kind of policy that’s somewhat (haphazard) which leads to recklessness.”
In all honesty, you could argue that Senator Biden has plenty of Washington experience but Gilchrest’s nine terms have placed him in Washington a full 14 years longer than Senator Obama has served in that august body. If Republicans pegged Gilchrest as being too much of an insider before, this endorsement will seal his fate.
The obvious question is how this affects the First District race. There are a number of voters who would have probably assumed that, while Wayne was backing a Democrat in the Congressional race, he would stay loyal to the GOP and back John McCain in the Presidential race – after all, my friend also informed me that Gilchrest was the chair of McCain’s Maryland efforts in the 2000 Presidential race. But these voters were incorrect, and there’s many of them who may question the benefit of the Gilchrest endorsement for Obama when Frank is trying to run as far away as he can from being pegged a liberal Democrat. I don’t know if there’s a lot of Gilchrest’s former supporters in the GOP who are going to admit to previously backing him now that he’s gone all the way to the other side, or at least as far as possible without actually switching parties. Wayne does join a few who claim to be Republicans for Obama; it’s worthy of note that Rep. Leach and Sen. Chaffee are both former elected officials who no longer serve in office.
Perhaps this is the final step before Wayne says goodbye to the GOP for good. It’s worth thinking about a possible matchup in 2010 should Andy Harris succeed in being elected to Congress; a contest that would see Harris seeking re-election against a former Republican-turned-Democrat who would be somewhat to the right of that party at-large but well left of Harris. While Harris soundly thrashed Gilchrest west of the bay in February’s GOP primary, it was a fairly even race between the two on this side of the Chesapeake. (However, you can’t discount the Pipkin effect on that primary – a race between Harris and Gilchrest without Pipkin may have turned out more favorably for Andy.)
In the meantime, it may be whatever advantage Kratovil had with moderate and independent voters because of Gilchrest’s backing may evaporate somewhat by the addition of Obama’s far-left policies to the equation. With the most liberal voting record in the United States Senate, it’s difficult to have an image of Barack Obama being a centrist and voters in the First District are going to have a more difficult time buying the argument that Obama, O’Malley, and Kratovil aren’t just different flavors of the same unappetizing gruel.