There has been much discussion among Maryland conservatives about the insurgent candidacy of Brian Murphy for Governor in general, and Sarah Palin's endorsement in particular. Some conservatives are outraged at what they view as an intrusion into a fragile political landscape by Palin. They view her endorsement of Murphy as an ill informed exercise that will do little to strengthen Murphy, while undermining our only realistic way of taking back the state. They assert that Bob Ehrlich will win the primary anyway, and all this endorsement accomplishes is the undermining and weakening of our Republican standard-bearer.
Other conservatives, such as the Baltimore Examiner, echo the sentiments expressed by the Ehrlich campaign, and predict that the Palin endorsement will only enhance Ehrlich's tireless efforts to appeal to the liberal-moderate Maryland electorate. They welcome this endorsement as a stealth political flanking maneuver that artfully depicts Ehrlich as a rationale centrist.
It is important however, not to lose sight of a vital priority for Maryland conservatives. There will have to be a future for the Maryland GOP beyond Bob Ehrlich. The Maryland Republican Party is currently on life support, and appears to be on par with the organization and legitimacy of third parties in some other states. It is imperative that we raise a farm team of future conservative leaders so we can fight the Democrats on multiple fronts in future elections. Due to our lack of a Republican bench, we are letting radical Attorney General Douglas Gansler off the hook without a challenger!
Brian Murphy has shown the potential of a future rising star in Maryland politics. I look upon the Palin endorsement as a positive way to ignite his candidacy, not to the extent that he will defeat Ehrlich in the primary, but enough so he can be a future leader down the road. I have no problem voting for Ehrlich with the understanding that he is our only hope for 2010, while welcoming the bolstering of Brian Murphy so he can fight another day. I fully understand the fact that there is no way Murphy can win the primary and very little chance that he can be competitive against O'Malley. However, we shouldn't shrug him off and berate him for having the audacity to challenge Bob Ehrlich.
We cannot continue to put all of our hope in a single Republican, especially one that is quite moderate and lacks a deep understanding of conservatism. After all, Ehrlich is not just a social liberal, he is pretty lame on illegal immigration and social programs. In fact, aside for campaigning for the repeal of the sales tax increase, I haven't heard Ehrlich articulate any red meat conservatism throughout the entire campaign season. This is not the type of Republican that we want as the sole leader of our party for the next twenty years. We need fresh blood. The job of the Ehrlich camp at this point is not to attack Palin or tear down Brian Murphy, it is to work harder to promote free market values in such a socialist state. We won't gain anything as conservative to destroy Murphy as we would by moving Ehrlich to the right.
This narrative that only moderates like Ehrlich can win in Maryland is not entirely true. Ellen Sauerbrey was a rock solid conservative state legislator who came from nowhere to virtually win the Governorship in 1994. (She actually initially won the election, but was outflanked by 10,000 dead voters from deep within Baltimore City at the end of the night). We just need to find people who can run spirited campaigns, garner name recognition, and have the ability to raise at least a moderate sum of campaign cash. This is why I am wholeheartedly enthusiastic about Palin's boost to Brian Murphy, even as I look forward to Bob Ehrlich being the next Governor of Maryland.