From time to time, a political campaign comes along that features a serious but relatively uninspiring candidate, who is nonetheless supported by citizens who are inspired by his or her candidacy. As of this writing, unfortunately, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown falls into that category.
I am offended by those who claim that the Brown/Ulman campaign has been "gutless" (as one columnist recently opined). They did run a rather small-c conservative effort. Avoid high risk & high reward. Three yards and a cloud of dust. Assume Doug Gansler is too flawed and his positioning too conservative to emerge as a palatable alternative; anticipate that Heather Mizeur will generate a great deal of excitement with the Liberals, but no one else. Don't panic. Don't deviate from the strategy. Let the fundraising, the ad buys and the institutional/organizational support carry the day.
And it did. Which might tempt someone in the Brown/Ulman orbit to shout out, "Second verse, same as the first!" And why not? Surely the battle for the Democratic nomination would be the tougher fight...why expend political capital against a B-tier GOP gubernatorial nominee like Lawrence "Uncle Lar'" Hogan?
The reasons are straightforward.
First, Hogan may be a second-stringer but, as was witnessed across the state in the primary election, odd things can happen in elections with lower voter participation rates. Historically, general election turnout is considerably lower in mid-Presidential term election years; and it tends to favor the party that does not control the White House. I don't have the statewide data in front of me...but in Howard County, in recent cycles, turnout has been just north of 80% in presidential elections and 60%-65% in mid-term elections. Could a national GOP wave elect Hogan? Highly unlikely, but not impossible. Running a simple, narrowly-focused turn-out-the D base effort probably puts a hard ceiling of 55% on the Brown/Ulman ticket, and increases the dangers of a handful of missteps knocking the campaign further to the left, away from the more independent-minded voters that will constitute a larger percentage of the November 2014 electorate.
Second, there is a link between election outcomes and the ability to govern effectively. Lt. Governor Brown, if elected our next Governor, will want a governing mandate. I know the ticket has a vision for Maryland, a version of it can be found on the campaign site here. That said, I believe the communications effort behind the advancement of said vision (the overarching narrative and the supporting policy proposals) has been...a little too cautious. This is a time for boldness, send a clear message that the Democratic Party has substantive ideas to improve the lives of working and middle class Americans. Folks in Annapolis - and beyond - will take note if Lt. Governor Brown obtains 57%+ of the vote in what is presumed to be a decent year for Republicans nationwide. O'Malley's high-water mark was 56.2%, and Brown won't exceed that percentage playing small ball.
There was a New Deal and a Fair Deal...why not a Maryland Deal? Package a combination of progressive ideas on economic growth/job creation and education reform with some populist good government proposals and a renewed call for civic engagement and public service (build upon the Compact with Maryland Veterans). An amalgamation of red meat for the base and policy positions that appeal to the unaffiliated, the post-partisan, and other persuadables who can be convinced that a Hogan Administration in Maryland would be a recipe for the kind of stagnation found in the District.
Moreover, a resounding win will better enable Brown to advance his legislative agenda, and better position him (and his running mate Howard County Executive Ken Ulman) for whatever opportunities might present themselves a bit further down the road.
If nothing else, having Brown and Ulman out on the campaign trail across the State - in Democratic strong-holds, swing districts and even some marginal R precincts - actively and consistently promoting a larger and compelling vision for the state, offering up the perfect measure of Change and Continuity, well, that would be inspiring.
Stay tuned, as more will follow.