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In 2003, Mr. Ehrlich’s first year as governor, he signed legislation he got through the Democrat-controlled General Assembly to open the state’s first charter school. A year later, he vowed to take control of 11 Baltimore schools that had long failed students.

Old friends help

“The point of the book is don’t be politically correct, just articulate common-sense views,” said Mr. Ehrlich, who mentioned that former New York mayor and 2008 GOP presidential candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani and conservative heavyweights such as Charles Krauthammer and Juan Williams have read chapters and returned positive reviews.

“I got involved because of Mr. Ehrlich’s strong stance on school reform, which includes charter schools and vouchers, especially for the poor,” Mr. Williams said. “He also gave to historically black colleges. These are some of the key civil rights issues of our time. It’s easy to demonize poor urban kids, but Mr. Ehrlich extended a hand.”

Mr. Giuliani also said he is excited about the book and Mr. Ehrlich’s new endeavors but that the former governor was shortchanged by Maryland voters in the 2006 elections when Democrats nationally won control of the House and Senate.

“Bobby Ehrlich has a great future, but I still think he was one of the greatest governors in the country,” he said, citing Mr. Ehrlich’s success in balancing state budgets and bringing jobs to Maryland. “It’s a shame he got caught up the national reaction to Republicans. … He’s what we need in Washington, a pragmatist. The book is interesting, has real insight.”

The often-told “Bobby Ehrlich story” is almost inextricable from his views on the importance of educational alternatives to public schools, especially for the poor.

The son of a car salesman growing up in a working-class section of Baltimore County, Mr. Ehrlich attended the prestigious Gilman School in Baltimore, largely on his athletic prowess.

However, it was the school’s academic rigors, the opportunity to excel and the friendships he forged there that led him to Princeton University, where he was captain of the football team, then to the Wake Forest University School of Law, elected office, a lucrative private-sector career and now King & Spalding, where managing partner J. Sedwick “Wick” Sollers is a fellow Princeton graduate and former prep school football rival.

Mr. Ehrlich said his decision about what to do after public office was difficult, but his long-term friendship with Mr. Sollers led him to King & Spalding, which he calls “a great law firm and a great fit” for him.

Still, he faces a tough challenge in presenting a voice that rises above the many others in Washington trying to have an impact on national politics. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has a book scheduled for release in August, and Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, a major conservative voice and potential 2012 presidential candidate, is reportedly working on one for a September release.

“There so many people and so few slots,” Republican strategist and media consultant Jon Brabender said about Mr. Ehrlich’s foray into TV and radio. “It takes more than knowledge. You have to be entertaining. And you have to pick one end of the spectrum so that 100 percent of the audience either agrees with you or wishes you were dead. I’ll be interested to see how Bob does.”

‘A closed chapter’

Trim and tanned, Mr. Ehrlich said he works out regularly but can no longer lift weights at a gym because “too many people want to talk politics.”

Though proud of his work in Maryland, including two terms as a state delegate, Mr. Ehrlich, who still has that “regular guy” personality that won over voters, downplays many of his political successes.

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