What they're saying about the O'Malley-Ehrlich debate

WJZ debate between Governor Martin O'Malley and Republican challenger, former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, moderated by Denise Koch.
WJZ debate between Governor Martin O'Malley and Republican challenger, former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, moderated by Denise Koch. (Baltimore Sun photo by Amy Davis)

Here's a look at what people are saying about the gubernatorial debate between Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. held Monday:

• The Washington Post's Maryland Politics explains how both campaigns immediately claimed victory after the debate.

Such campaign spin is hardly new. Before it was disseminated easily over BlackBerry devices and WiFi, campaign staffers would haul in printers, copiers and before that inky Xerox machines to spit out their two cents about opponent's "lies" to reporters in real time during debates.

But the rapid-fire e-mails on Monday said at least three things about the state of Maryland's gubernatorial race with three weeks remaining before Nov. 2.

First, with O'Malley leading in recent polls and still holding a significant money advantage to get his message out over the airwaves, Ehrlich appears aggressive in trying to use an expanding slate of debates to connect with voters and to answer O'Malley's ads.

• The debate was "peppered with eye-rolls and personal jabs," according to Hayley Peterson at The Washington Examiner.

"The heated tone of the debate reflects the negative ads that have been circulating in the Baltimore and Washington areas for the past several months." When asked about the negative campaigning, Ehrlich said, "In some media markets negative works. It's all silly and juvenile, and unfortunately part of what happens when people are fighting for power." He claimed O'Malley had been using "attack ads" more often and for a longer period than his campaign. O'Malley said he uses such ads to fulfill an obligation to correct what he called inaccuracies in Ehrlich's ads.

• WMAR-TV (ABC 2) says that jobs, taxes and the state's future were the focus of the first debate, with both candidates in attack mode.

The candidates disagree on a wide range of issues, and political experts have said the two men don't care for each other personally either. So when they took the stage together for their first debate, you could expect some fireworks, and the candidates did not disappoint.

• Len Lazarick says the debate format was not good to Ehrlich, even though Ehrlich himself said he enjoyed the debate.

Having won the negotiations on the format, Ehrlich failed to take full advantage of the freedom it permitted. His opening statement made no attempt to lay out the "far different views" he had from O'Malley.

"Governors count," he insisted, although people taking the time to watch a gubernatorial debate have presumably already come to that conclusion. "It's not about us, it's about you," he said, continuing that he was not there to "attempt to litigate the past."

After a disciplined opening by O'Malley laying out his "tough decisions" in "tough times," that's exactly what the two men did, arguing about their records.

• Red Maryland's Richard E. Vatz says that Ehrlich won the debate, based on substance. The stark substantive difference in this campaign is that Gov. O'Malley wants a more collectivist state with increasing tax and spending power. Gov. Ehrlich believes that less state activism and control is the key to freeing up private enterprise to rescue the economy of Maryland.

If ever a debate should be adjudicated by substance, it was this one. Focusing on irrelevant personal and elocutionary matters is a luxury serious, hard-hit-by-recession voters cannot afford.

The winner of the debate on substance: Governor Ehrlich.

Via The Baltimore Sun on Twitter

@Tom_Myers: If anything, the debate made me more confident about supporting Governor O'Malley's re-election.

@JustcoolB: These are grown adults having rap battle in suits.....instead of working together to solve the problems

@TheWaterman: To hear Ehrlich & O'Malley you'd think there's no bubble in higher ed. USM tuition=too low & too many people go to college

@rickbestany: If public schools are so great, why doesn't MOM send his kids to them?

@johnwaire: i'm sick of the back + forth smear ads - i propose that they either get in a ring or a dunk tank - proceeds to the schools

@terpette: My reaction to the debate? Why were other candidates excluded? There are more parties on the ballot than 2!!

Via The Baltimore Sun Talk Forums

It doesn't seem like the former governor thought to prepare beforehand. And after having eight years to think about answers, not to mention hosting a talk show for the past three, one would think he'd have some answers. -- Octoburn

O'Malley sidestepped the question about raising taxes. All he did was pledge not to do what Ehrlich did when he was Governor. -- PurpleHaze52

O'Malley has guts. He's defending the penny sales tax increase. I like this guy. The one penny hasn't hurt me one bit.. -- Jack Dublin

[O'Malley]'s immigration policy is pure fluff, attack, attack, fluff, fluff. -- BigB

[Compiled by Nancy Knight.]

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