- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 22, 2011

Inside his new corner office overlooking the White House, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. offers only measured reflections on his 18-year run through Maryland politics, highlighted by his term as the state’s first Republican governor in four decades.

Mr. Ehrlich is instead diving enthusiastically into plans for his second act — as a major influence on national politics and conservative causes through a book, a proposed syndicated radio show and his new job at a high-profile international Washington law firm.

“My [work] will be a blueprint for the party and for the country going forward,” said Mr. Ehrlich, adding that he loves the view but hopes his efforts will help bring a new occupant to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Though Mr. Ehrlich returns to Washington a few months after failing to recapture the governorship he first lost to Democrat Martin O’Malley in 2006, he already is trying to make an impact.

His wife, Kendel, recently hosted a fundraiser for Republican George Allen in his attempt to win back his U.S. Senate seat in Virginia. This week, Mr. Ehrlich is scheduled to join former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a Democrat, at the Council of Foreign Affairs in New York for a talk about the issues likely to drive the 2012 presidential election cycle.

“It feels good,” he said. “Being able to come back is something unforeseen but pleasant.”

Mr. Ehrlich first arrived in Washington in 1994 as a member of Congress and part of the GOP wave that helped Newt Gingrich become House speaker and take control of the chamber for the first time in 40 years.

But further comparison between his class and the Republicans who regained control of the House in 2010 “probably stop there,” he said.

“It was a revolution year,” Mr. Ehrlich said. “But this appears to be a more veteran class. In conversations with my friends in leadership, they are very impressed.”

Ryan impresses

Mr. Ehrlich singles out House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, as one of the chamber’s most impressive GOP lawmakers and an example of the type of leadership he wants to bring to Washington.

“The general rule in this town is when you go out on limb and exert leadership — from the right or left — more often than not you will have that limb sawed off behind you,” he said. “Witness the Ryan budget. What Mr. Ryan and the new Republican leadership are betting on is that there will an exception to that rule — when the numbers become so dramatic and tangible that people will listen and the negative consequences will not follow.”

Despite his lasting connections in the House, Mr. Ehrlich, 53, insists he has no plans to return to Capitol Hill to lobby or become a Washington insider, wanting instead to make a national impact through his projects, working at the King & Spalding law firm and through speaking engagements and TV appearances.

He said it is “highly unlikely” that he will run again for elected office, considering “the last two election cycles have made it clear that the majority of Marylanders wish to go in another direction.”

The book is titled “Turn This Car Around: The Roadmap to Saving the American Dream” and offers personal anecdotes and a libertarian-influenced view on such issues as marriage, class warfare and the failures of public education in urban areas.

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