The Battle for America 2010: Maryland Republican Establishment Fears Murphy's Law in November

One advantage of having a late primary as Maryland does is the lack of downtime between the primary and the campaign -- the survivors don't have to wind the machine back up from a primary fight months before once Labor Day rolls around. Instead, winners tomorrow get to keep their campaigns cranked up in high gear for another seven weeks.

But the late primary also gives the losers a role. In a divisive fight, the winner has to quickly convince supporters of the loser that they need to get onboard with his or her effort. Generally, those who succeed in November are the ones who gathered the united front shortly after the primary by soothing the wounds deflated supporters of the losing campaigns inflict by a crushing defeat.

Political prognosticators in Maryland didn't give upstart GOP candidate for governor Brian Murphy much of a shot in yesterday's primary -- as a high-water mark they thought he could get 1 out of every 3 Republican votes, and in two of Maryland's 23 counties Murphy indeed reached that number. (Statewide, Murphy received just a shade under 25 percent.) But there were over 100 rabid Murphy supporters packed into a meeting hall outside Annapolis Sunday who believed the Brian Murphy/Mike Ryman ticket could pull off their own “Maryland Miracle,” including Murphy himself. Here is where the story of the Maryland Republicans' fate this fall will be told.

Murphy's campaign has been treated like a red-headed stepchild by the Maryland Republican Party, which climbed upon the bandwagon of former Governor Bob Ehrlich early on; even before he formally announced in April, state party leaders decided to scrap the national Republican rule (Rule 11) about taking sides in contested primaries. The move, which was unpopular among conservative activists, freed resources for Ehrlich's campaign and doomed Murphy's bid to one which relies heavily on street-level support. Even with backing from such conservative heavyweights as Sarah Palin, the Family Research Council, and state-level pro-life and pro-Second Amendment groups, Murphy still worked at a considerable disadvantage. “I just want the endorsement of 160,000 Maryland voters,” said Murphy in a post-rally interview.

It's now clear that Ehrlich had the money, media, and party backing advantages which propelled him to a primary win. But at what cost?