Palin Backs Ehrlich Opponent in Maryland

National political operatives and pundits will have much to say next Tuesday about results in Republican primaries for governor of Maryland and the open U.S. House seat in Massachusetts’ 10th District (Cape Cod).

That’s because Sarah Palin made one of her endorsements in the Maryland contest—opposing former GOP. Gov. Bob Ehrlich— and, in the lone House District in the Bay State in which an incumbent (Democrat William Delahunt) is retiring, the GOP contest pits a Tea Party favorite against the proverbial “establishment candidate.”

Four years ago, Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich of Maryland sported high approval ratings, but nonetheless became the only governor in the nation to lose. Because of the nationwide Democratic tide and the turnout in the historically Democratic Free State, Ehrlich lost to Democrat and Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley.

“They liked ‘Governor Bob’ but hated George W. Bush more,” is how one Ehrlich Administration official explained his boss’s loss.

Now Ehrlich is back seeking a rematch and polls show him in a dead heat with O’Malley. But the moderate-to-conservative Ehrlich must first win a primary against 32-year-old Brian Murphy, former Constellation Energy executive and a strong conservative.

With Palin’s blessing, Murphy got an influx of cash—enough to run spots primetime on Fox News that slam Ehrlich’s spending while governor and his less-than-solid views on abortion.

No one expects Murphy to win but his showing among Maryland Republicans against one of their most durable figures will be worth watching.

Massachusetts Tea Party

In Massachusetts, the GOP contest in the open 10th District pits state Rep. Jeff Perry against former State Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Joe Malone.

Perry is backed by much of the local Tea Party movement and takes a strong pro-life and anti-tax line. And he has Rob Willington, Sen. Scott Brown’s (R.-Mass.) political operative in his winning special election earlier this year, as his campaign quarterback.

But the moderate Malone is a durable fixture in state politics and has the backing of liberal former GOP Gov. William Weld.

The race will be a defining moment in the modern history of the Massachusetts Republican Party and, in a district which Brown handily carried in his special election win, one that national GOP operatives will be targeting for a pickup in November.