Why not Bob Ehrlich? As likely voters in next year’s Republican presidential primary scan the broad prospective field, perhaps the least known potential candidate is a man who has served not only as a governor, but also on Capitol Hill and been in private practice as an attorney, has written books and op-eds – and coached youth sports.
Ehrlich calls himself “the smallest fish in the big pond,” but says his background and experience makes him as qualified as any Republican in the field.
Bob Ehrlich was elected to the U.S. House in 1994 and reelected in 1996, 1998 and 2000 before winning election as governor in 2002. He lost the seat to Democrat Martin O’Malley – who is also in New Hampshire often considering a run for President – in 2006 and then was defeated by O’Malley again in 2010. Previously, he served in the Maryland House of Delegates, a position he said he “loved arguably more than any other.”
Ehrlich has been in the state several times since prior to the 2014 midterm election and returned on Monday night for a meeting with Republicans in Derry and Concord, and a Tuesday afternoon forum with students at New England College in Henniker. Later Tuesday, he spoke to the Rockingham County Republican Committee in Portsmouth.
Ehrlich said in an interview that deciding whether to run for President “is tough on many levels, obviously the personal level being most important.” He said he intends to make a decision on whether to become a candidate in the summer.
“I’m a competitor and an old jock, and for the longest time, people would say, ‘He’s going to run for this or for that. Now it’s ‘the smallest fish in the big pond’ thing and I’m trying to figure out if you can do it, if there is enough demand for what you bring and supply, and what I’m about. Whether there is enough demand to make us viable in New Hampshire.”
Ehrlich said that being out of office for eight years is not a detriment to his qualifications. “I don’t see being back in the private sector and writing books and coaching youth supports as a negative on my resume, especially given the cynicism about Washington.”
As for the current gridlock in Washington over President Obama’s immigration executive actions and the potential shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security, “I’ve seen this movie before and have participated in this movie before. My class (in Congress, under Speaker Newt Gingrich) specialized in this kind of stuff.
“My problem is, if you can’t count to 60” – the number of U.S. Senate votes needed to move a bill to debate – “then why play the legislative angle? If you can count to 60, then go for it.
“But why play the legislative angle if you know you’re going to cave at some point?” Ehrlich said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s new plan to separate DHS funding from the Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration. And he said, Obama has been “Oh-fer” in courts, so “let the courts take care of what he is doing.”
In considering whether to run for President Ehrlich said that raising money continues to be important, “but not as important that it used to be given the advent of social media. What used to just go to 80 or 100 people in a room is now tweeted, it’s on a web site, it’s on C-Span; it’s out there.”
Ehrlich agreed that among the prospective presidential candidates on the Republican side, “philosophically there is a lot of agreement. As far as the 85 percent test goes, we’re there.
“It’s about what is your leadership style. My pitch is that economically, culturally and on national defense, we’re more insecure today than we were seven years ago.
“The ‘you didn’t build that,’ taxing 529s (college savings plans), being anti-entrepreneur and anti-small business pitch that this progressive President generates is contrary to our values. There is also a lack of respect for sovereignty and the rule of law.”
He also said he is focused on “real programs for the middle class,” not “this minimum wage stuff and not taxing 529s,” and on “really cutting the corporate income tax.
“These are issues that, when I’m given the opportunity, I discuss because I fought those fights for many years. I brought the first charter schools to Maryland and fought the unions and the progressives.”