No man of Steele to save Maryland

Not that I was all that confident he would be the best Republican candidate to set forth, but in yesterday’s Washington Post Michael Steele said he would “take a pass” at Maryland’s race for governor. That sound you hear is the sigh of relief from those candidates who have already invested their time and effort into building support for their runs – now they won’t have to worry about Michael Steele sucking all of the oxygen out of the Maryland race.

And though I’m sure many will fret that he was the one candidate with the best chance at victory, I only have to look back at 2006 to see what happened when the Maryland Republican Party essentially handed him a statewide race nomination on a silver platter – he lost an open-seat Senate race by 10 points. Of course, I’ve heard all the arguments – bad year for Republicans nationwide, reaction to an unpopular president – but Steele lagged behind Bob Ehrlich by almost 40,000 votes overall; more importantly, he got just 24% in Prince George’s County and 23.2% in Baltimore City. Surely the GOP hopes were that Steele would poll much better in those heavily minority areas, but instead he was just 3.5% better in PG and o.6% improved in Baltimore City over Bob Ehrlich. But Steele lost Baltimore County, where Ehrlich carried the day.

Perhaps the reason Steele took a pass on the race, though, was that he would have to work for it. If done right, a contested primary is good for a candidate because it places them on a campaign footing much more quickly. While there were a number of other candidates in the 2006 Republican Senate primary, they were of the perennial candidate sort and no one else eclipsed 3% of the vote; on the other hand, Ben Cardin won a spirited Democratic primary with only 43.7% of the vote. That sharpening of campaign skills certainly gave Cardin some advantages later on.

But the biggest vibe I seem to be getting is why this was such a big deal in the first place. Sure, old-timers in the Maryland GOP look back at Steele’s tenure as Chair fondly, but he really never ran for anything until that Senate race. (One could equate that with the same sort of criticism certain people who make their first run for office a statewide one have received.) While I’m sure Anthony Brown would like to change this, insofar as running for subsequent electoral office goes the Maryland LG post has been comparable to the national vice-presidency – not worth “a bucket of warm (spit).”

So once we know the intentions of one Lawrence Hogan it appears the Republican field for governor will be pretty much set. Now it’s time to fill out the lower part of the dance card – I have it on the best of authority that one person thought of as a prospective aspirant for Attorney General will not be seeking the job, so it will be up to the MDGOP to dig deeper for a candidate to try for that open seat.

I suppose Michael Steele is available.

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