Republicans looking for a shot at taking the Statehouse in 2014, or even picking up some seats in the legislature will have to do more than rail against Gov. Martin O'Malley and bemoan the so-called "liberal leanings" of the state.
The Washington Post reported this week that Republican strategists are looking toward targeting O'Malley tax increases and controversial laws as they try and gain strength for the 2014 gubernatorial race.
But as Democratic strategist Mike Morrill told the Post, the fact that O'Malley won't be on the ballot makes it tougher for Republicans to rail against him or his policies. On top of that, O'Malley still enjoys solid popular support in a state that runs two-to-one in favor of Democrats.
Republicans at the state level appear to be moving toward a strategy that hasn't served the party well in recent years, one in which the majority of their time is spent condemning others instead of putting out a solid vision for how they would do things differently. But just as was the case in the presidential election where candidate Mitt Romney had to attempt to appease both the far right and moderate members of the party - ultimately failing to appease either - state Republican candidates won't gain independent or Democratic votes if they hold to ideologies that most voters have rejected.
Robert Ehrlich won the governorship for Republicans not because people were tired of Democratic rule, but because he put forward a better vision and plan for the future than his Democratic opponent did.
GOP candidates already are clamoring about how bad O'Malley is and how he has raised taxes too much. What they haven't done, however, is say how they will find money to address the state's needs differently.
Any Republican who can come up with a solid plan, and who is able to get their ideas in front of voters across the state, will have a better chance of getting votes than a candidate who only wants to complain about the other party without offering concrete solutions of their own.
Republicans have the added burden of trying to appeal to both moderates in the party and an all-too-often uncompromising far-right base, but the candidates can't win anything if they don't have a plan that distinguishes them not only from other contenders in their party, but from their Democratic opposition as well.