ABC News’ Alex Pepper reports:
Sarah Palin’s surprise endorsement in the Maryland gubernatorial race has left state insiders scratching their heads.
Republican Brian Murphy received Palin’s endorsement yesterday. The long shot candidate had received little attention in a race where former Gov. Robert Ehrlich is heavily favored to capture the Republican nomination and face Gov. Martin O’Malley for a rematch of their 2006 contest.
“Mr. Murphy is just not known in Maryland. Bob Ehrlich’s well-known, so this endorsement caught everybody by surprise,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said on ABC/Washington Post’s “Top Line” today.
“I think this is an interesting development for the Republican Party in Maryland. I think this endorsement just shows how extreme the Sarah Palin movement is within the Republican Party.”
Murphy is a political neophyte who runs an investment group and a cake business on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Until 2008, he worked in energy trading at Baltimore’s Constellation Energy Group, leaving when the sector contracted after the fall of Lehman Brothers.
Palin emphasized this private sector history in her endorsement. “As a former energy industry executive and current small business owner, Brian has the private sector experience that is so lacking in government today,” she wrote in a post on her Facebook page.
Murphy has positioned himself as a more conservative option than Ehrlich, but he was once a Democrat. On his Facebook page today, Murphy said “Some people are surprised to find out that Ronald Reagan and I were once Democrats. We were both fiscal and social conservatives, and the party left us.”
While the Palin endorsement has certainly given Murphy’s campaign unprecedented publicity, Cardin sees the attention on the Republican primary as a positive for Democrats, even if Ehrlich is not seriously threatened. “I don't think it’s going to make a difference. I think it just helps Martin O'Malley — our Democrat, our incumbent governor. We're united. The Democratic Party is united, and I think Marylanders want to move forward, and I think it's going to help give Gov. O'Malley even a stronger election prospect," he said.