- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday disclosed that former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have sought his input for their potential presidential campaigns, saying that his own re-election loss has not ended his career in Republican politics.

Mr. Ehrlich, who was Maryland’s first Republican governor in 36 years, also said he had not ruled out another run for state office, including a possible campaign in 2010 to replace Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Democrat.

“I would not eliminate that as an option,” he said of a run to succeed Miss Mikulski, 70, now in her fourth term.

However, Mr. Ehrlich told reporters at a farewell lunch at the State House that it was “grossly premature” to speculate about a Senate run four years from now. “It depends on a lot of elements that are unknown at present,” he said.

The governor was more definite about his ability to help Republican candidates for president in 2008. He said he had been approached by Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Romney.

“Those discussions with Giuliani are much further along than with anyone else,” Mr. Ehrlich said. “It is no secret that we have had a friendship and that friendship has flourished over the last two, three, four years.”

The two men talked late into the night at a dinner in Baltimore’s Little Italy following Mr. Giuliani’s appearance at a campaign event for Mr. Ehrlich the Sunday before Election Day.

The Giuliani exploratory committee yesterday announced Michael DuHaime will be the committee’s executive director. Mr. DuHaime is a former Republican National Committee political director.

Mr. Ehrlich lost re-election last month to Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat who will be sworn in Jan. 17.

Giuliani spokeswoman Sunny Mindel confirmed Mr. Giuliani has reached out to Mr. Ehrlich.

“Rudy has known the governor for quite a while and has great respect for him,” she said.

Mr. Ehrlich yesterday praised Mr. Romney’s “absolutely great” performance this year as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

“Mitt and I have similar views on issues,” he said. “He obviously being a Northeastern Republican had some of the same obstacles that we have had as well.”

Mr. Romney was not available to comment.

Mr. Ehrlich did not give specifics about the role he would play in either presidential campaign, though he said the fundraising organization he built in Maryland has collected more than $30 million since 2002.

“Maryland is clearly in play on the fundraising end for any Republican presidential hopeful,” he said.

Paul E. Schurick, a top aide to the governor, said Mr. Ehrlich can draw from a large support base that is concentrated in Maryland but extends across the country.

“That may be of interest and value to would-be contenders,” he said.

Mr. Ehrlich said yesterday again that Marylanders in November elected a slate of “hard left” Democrats and restored that party’s almost complete control of state government.

“The trend lines at present in our state are not very good for someone with my views and values,” he said, adding that it will take widespread dissatisfaction with Democratic leaders for a Republican to again win statewide office in Maryland.

Mr. Ehrlich said he would stay involved in state politics and help rebuild the state Republican Party from the election defeats, including Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele’s in the U.S. Senate race and those in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.

Mr. Ehrlich said his plans after leaving office also include speaking engagements throughout the country.

“There is a generally favorable view of our administration around the country, that we have been pretty successful in a fairly hostile environment,” he said. “There are some people who want to hear our story and hear how we were able to do some things.”

Mr. Ehrlich said he and Maryland first lady Kendel Ehrlich would dedicate some of their time to charitable work, including the fight against cystic fibrosis, an inherited chronic lung and digestive ailment.

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