The exit strategy
I wasn’t going to crack the whip again on the rapidly expiring horse known as a week of furious activity in the 2014 governor’s race until I followed a link at Maryland Reporter and found this Daniel Leaderman piece in the Gazette on Michael Steele. The most interesting sentence to me was this one:
“I’ve stated several times that I think Michael Steele’s our best shot,” (gubernatorial candidate and Frederick County Commission President Blaine) Young said, adding that he will not run if Steele does. (Emphasis mine.)
It’s interesting to note that Young first alluded to this possibility of Steele entering the race in my presence back in February, when he was here speaking with the Wicomico County Republican Club.
Unlike the 2010 race where everyone was waiting to see what Bob Ehrlich would do – even in July of 2009 at the Tawes event we only had two gubernatorial contenders, Mike Pappas and Charles Lollar – this time around no one waited for Michael Steele. Yet if Michael gets into the race, he’s probably the leading contender as most rank-and-file Republicans (the ones who only pay attention every couple years as opposed to junkies like me who write about these races on a constant basis) probably have fond memories of the Lieutenant Governor; moreover, Steele can take some credit for the electoral successes for Republicans in 2010 – and probably will on the campaign trail.
Blaine’s admission that he would withdraw if Steele gets into the race sort of sets the tone for other contenders as well. We found out late last month that Dan Bongino would take a pass on a statewide race next year in favor of a Congressional run – perhaps he knew something not yet cleared for public consumption? – and Blaine could comfortably slot himself into a bid for the newly-created Frederick County Executive post, albeit not without GOP opposition. At just 41 years of age, there’s certainly time for Young to work on a future run for statewide office in 2018 or 2022.
Other contenders find themselves in different positions, though. Because of a residency requirement snafu, Charles Lollar had to downgrade his 2010 campaign to one for a Fifth District Congressional seat. Unlike some of his cohorts, though, Lollar doesn’t have a long resume of elective office to fall back on so it may be logical that, if Charles can’t build on his base of support within the TEA Party community for a statewide race, he could go for a local Delegate or State Senate race – his home county is fertile ground for GOP challengers because the incumbents are Democrats and Lollar only needs a top-three finish for a House seat.
Ron George could obviously run again for Delegate if he decides to abort his statewide plans early enough, but as a guy who’s turning 60 later this year, his prime days of grabbing the brass ring may soon be behind him. In the last 50 years, only one governor (William Donald Schaefer) has been initially elected beyond the age of 60, so this may be Ron’s one shot at glory.
That being said, history is definitely not on the side of David Craig, who is term-limited out his current job as Harford County Executive and has been essentially running for governor over the last two years. Of all those mentioned, I think he’s most likely to stick the race out and challenge Steele should Michael get into the race. Craig really has the most to lose in terms of time invested in the race to just roll over for Steele.
I don’t see this as a four-way race (Craig, George, Lollar, Steele) all the way to the primary, but I don’t see this as a Steele walkover either. In fact, given certain circumstances we could see this split the party into several different factions, not unlike the recent Chair race.
Yet if Michael Steele is planning to jump into the race, it would be best to not keep everyone hanging until just a few months before the primary like Bob Ehrlich did in 2010. That sense of entitlement exhibited by getting in at a late date – and particularly this time, when several have stated their desire for the race and amassed funds and volunteers hoping to dismantle the Democratic status quo – would probably do more to harm the Maryland Republican Party’s chances for downticket success than the 2010 Ehrlich debacle did. That was a year when success was created in spite of the state party, not because of it.
Once upon a time Michael Steele was Chair of the Maryland Republican Party. The best thing he can do for it now is make his intentions known sooner rather than later, so other pieces can fall into place.