Palin captures some headlines, little else, in Maryland
These are the dog days of August the political funny season when weird things happen. Since today is Friday the 13th, there's no better time to discuss the most ghoulish event of Maryland's 2010 election campaign.
Hold the tweets: Sarah Palin supports Brian Murphy for governor!
Thanks to Palin, many of us now know there is a Brian Murphy. He's a Montgomery County resident, age 33, and owner of the nouveau Smith Baking Co. that peddles a scrumptious but artery-clogging eight-layer Smith Island Cake, which a few years ago gained the phony state imprimatur as Maryland's official cake.
[Side note: The state's seal of approval has been turned into a joke by legislators promoting anything constituents foist on them. The list of dubious official symbols includes a state cat (calico cat), dinosaur (Astrodon johnstoni), drink (milk), exercise (walking), folk dance (square dancing), gem (Patuxent River stone), insect (Baltimore checkerspot butterfly) and sport (jousting) plus a state cake.]
What makes Palin's endorsement so lame is that she's never laid eyes on Murphy or talked policy with him. She knows less about him than John McCain knew about her when he picked Palin as his 2008 running mate.
Her Maryland endorsement wasn't designed to enhance Palin's political power or swing this election. Only fools and die-hard Murphyites believe he has even a remote chance.
Instead, Palin's endorsement of Murphy was intended to demonstrate her incredible marketing ability.
With one Facebook announcement she made him, however briefly, a celebrity. He appeared on national TV. Contributions flowed in from all over the country. He gained tons of media coverage.
It shows Palin's power to turn a nobody into an overnight sensation. It adds to her celebrity status.
For tea party followers and others fed up with government, crime, politics, world turmoil, bailouts and whatever else isn't going right in their lives, Palin is a quirky icon with a knack for saying outrageous things that they agree with.
She may be unelectable as president (just as Murphy is unelectable as governor), but in this era of entertainment as news, Sarah Palin knows how to stay in the public eye.
Will her endorsement make a difference? Absolutely. Instead of being a single-digit candidate, Murphy may achieve a double-digit percentage of the vote.
Yet he's unlikely to become the next Bob Fustero.
Remember him? Fustero, a retired supermarket clerk from Montgomery County, ran in the 2002 Democratic primary against Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. He stunned everyone by gaining 108,658 votes, or 20 percent. The damage to Townsend from this protest vote was irreparable. It led to her defeat that November.
2010 is quite different. There's no groundswell of anti-Ehrlich anger within GOP ranks. His unfavorable rating among Republicans registered a scant 6.6 percent in a July poll.
Meanwhile, Murphy's campaign hasn't made much headway. His website is all fluff and platitudes:
"Balancing the budget without raising taxes."
"Jobs are job one."
"Meaningful health care reform."
"Make Baltimore City safe and affordable."
"Protecting our shared green spaces, our mountains, our farmland, our coasts and wetlands, and our spectacular Chesapeake Bay."
"Protecting the 2nd Amendment rights of Maryland residents.
"Standing firm for the sanctity of life."
The irony is that even if Murphy tops Fustero's 20 percent in the primary, he and Palin won't succeed in making Maryland a conservative Republican state.
Instead, they would be dooming the state GOP to a humbling defeat in November.
That's because Murphy can only do well by dramatically weakening Ehrlich's rock-solid base among Republicans. That would seal Ehrlich's fate.
Judging from Facebook responses to Palin's endorsement, Ehrlich backers understand this:
"Sarah, you are so wrong with your endorsement. I must say I am very displeased with your choice. I think you are nothing but another opportunist. I must say you know nothing about Maryland and Bob Ehrlich."
"Sorry Sarah ... I support most of what you say and who you endorse ... but Ehrlich was a great Governor for the state of MD ... I'd hate to see MD get another term with [Gov. Martin] O'Malley."
"Sorry, Sarah, we disagree. The best hope for any relief here is Ehrlich ... O'Malley is ... an Obama thumbprint. Ehrlich is the current best answer because Murphy just is not known."
"Sarah, I have lived in Maryland for 76 years ... I believe your endorsement of Brian Murphy may be a BIG mistake. It is my opinion that Murphy cannot beat Owe[sic]Malley in the general election."
"Thanks Sarah, that should really help the Democrats here ... Just leave us be and we'll probably get back the seat on our own."
"Are you friggin crazy? Who are you to voice your opinion from 4,000 miles away? You don't know what our issues and problems are in Maryland. All you have done is split the party."
So it goes in the brave, new world of political social networking.
Palin succeeded in stirring up controversy. She captured headlines in Democratic Maryland. She gave conservative followers a reason to speak out and be heard. She enhanced her own marketability as a speaker and promoter.
Oh, yes, she also gave Brian Murphy a huge morale boost while alienating key Maryland Republicans she might need in 2012.
Was her announcement a wise political decision? Of course not.
But it was a great publicity coup.
Barry Rascovar is a State House columnist and communications consultant. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.