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GOP launches all-out response to O'Malley oil ad

Officials at all levels in the state’s GOP mobilized to mop up perceived damage from Gov. Martin O'Malley's newest attack. The 60-second spot connects the likely Republican nominee, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., with Big Oil and the gushing spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The first response came from Ehrlich campaign spokesman Andy Barth, who called on O'Malley to issue an apology for an ad that "intentionally misrepresents the truth."

Next the state GOP sent out a missive asking O’Malley to return donations they say he received from oil companies. We wonder if the GOP would also want Ehrlich to do the same. A quick check with the Center for Responsive Politics shows he's taken oil money including $500 from BP when he was a congressman in 2000. (Ehrlich was not alone; BP coats members of congress with funds and handed out $42,500 that year alone.)

Minutes after the party e-mail came a statement from Ehrlich himself, writing that O'Malley's attack “debases the office we both seek.”

He then asks “Has the O’Malley campaign no decency?”

It is possible that a simple miscommunication is causing the heightened rhetoric. Ehrlich goes on to defend himself against a claim that O'Malley's ad never made.

Ehrlich says: “To suggest that I somehow favored or caused the Gulf oil disaster and now call for more coastal drilling is untrue, and Martin O’Malley knows it.”

We listened to the ad a few times and didn’t hear O’Malley’s camp blaming his predecessor for the spill or saying that Ehrlich somehow supports pouring oil in to the Gulf of Mexico.

Ehrlich has said that he wants to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling, but has not responded directly to questions about other coastal drilling. Barth, a spokesman, has said Ehrlich would not favor additional drilling off Virginia's coast for the time being.

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