Former presidential candidate John McCain supports former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in the Republican primary, the Associated Press is reporting.

The endorsement is extra notable because McCain's would-be vice president, Sarah Palin, backs Ehrlich challenger Brian Murphy, who has drawn the support of tea partiers for his more conservative positions.

Ehrlich is "a fine guy," McCain told the AP's Brian Witte in an interview today after a meeting of the U.S. Naval Academy's Board of Visitors.

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Ehrlich said in a statement that he is "honored to have earned John McCain's trust and support."

(Ehrlich and McCain pictured at American Legion post in Halethorpe in 2008)

McCain, a Republican Arizona senator, is up for reelection this November, having defeated primary contender J.D. Hayworth, a radio talk show host and former congressman who billed himself "the Consistent Conservative."

Palin announced her support for Murphy in early August on her Facebook page.

"I'm honored to endorse Brian Murphy for Governor of Maryland. Brian is a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment commonsense conservative and a firm believer in the free market and the cause for energy independence," her Facebook status said, in part.

Ehrlich's camp spun Palin's endorsement as proof that the former governor is a centrist Republican candidate (translation: electable in Democrat-heavy Maryland).

The Palin stamp of approval doesn't seem to have attracted many donors to Murphy's campaign. The Montgomery County investor has provided much of his own financing. This morning, The Sun examined the impact -- or nonimpact -- of tea partiers in the Ehrlich-Murphy matchup.

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