Martin O’Malley released a new attack ad against Governor Bob Ehrlich on Friday. Blair Lee, columnist for the Montgomery Gazette, observed on the Ron Smith Show on Friday that with the ad, O’Malley “gave up the high moral ground” in his quest to be re-elected.
I have observed in a prior post that O’Malley’s tactics of attacking a challenger is not the usual course for an incumbent seeking re-election. Rather than run ads promoting his own record, O’Malley has stepped up the attack ads against Ehrlich. That begs the question: does O’Malley have a record to run on or one that he would prefer the public not know?
I have also commented in a prior post that O’Malley’s claim that Ehrlich is a lobbyist is demonstrably false. Lobbyists have to register with the state and federal governments. Ehrlich is not registered as a lobbyist, nor has he ever been so registered. If they think he was a lobbyist who was unregistered, that is a clear violation of law. File a complaint with the appropriate government authorities. No such claim has or will be filed, because this claim is false.
Yet, O’Malley seeks to paint Ehrlich as a lobbyist for “Big Oil”. To make such a claim, the O’Malley camp seeks to hold Ehrlich responsible for all clients and representation by other attorneys in the law firm he is associated with, regardless of who or where those attorneys are. He also raises votes that Ehrlich made while in Congress, but conveniently omits that Congressional Democrats from Maryland, like Steny Hoyer and Elijah Cummings, also voted the same way.
The ad falsely leads the listener to believe that in the face of the BP Gulf Oil spill that Ehrlich’s response is to continue drilling (the ad repeats the refrain “Drill, Baby, Drill”). The ad also falsely wants the listener to conclude that Ehrlich made a lot of money with the evil oil companies.
At the end of the ad, O’Malley’s voice says that it is authorized by him.
Why would O’Malley authorize such a blatantly false ad? Several reasons explain his strategy:
1. O’Malley is losing ground in the polls, despite his airing negative attack ads against Ehrlich since April, 2010.
2. The public is very upset about the Gulf oil spill, so they will likely be upset with anyone not recognizing it as the worst environmental disaster ever or anyone too cozy with the oil companies.
3. Negative ads generally work, but will they this year when voters appear to be less trusting of what they hear?
Even the Washington Post—no ally of Ehrlich—is not buying O’Malley’s ad. So, O’Malley must believe that if he repeats his lies about Ehrlich long enough, you—the voters—are not smart enough to know he is lying and you will accept what he says is true.
This strategy will backfire on O’Malley. While this type of false ad may have worked in the past, I do not believe that it will work THIS year.
I predict that if his campaign manager was the impetus behind the ad, he will be replaced before this campaign is over. O’Malley will throw his campaign manager under the bus and try to convince the voting public to re-elect him using a different strategy. For that, he will gamble that voters have short memories.
As a voter, would you vote for someone who is quick to dispense with the truth and ethics to retain power? Is that a leader who can be trusted? If he is willing to lie to retain political office, what other lies has he or will he tell the public?
Dilip Paliath has a general law practice in Towson. For more information, see www.paliath.com.