CONCORD, N.H."”He's gotten very little attention since losing the governor's race in Maryland five years ago, but former Gov. Bob Ehrlich is nonetheless exploring a presidential campaign.
Ehrlich plans to make his fourth visit to New Hampshire on Feb. 24, after meeting last week with more than 100 top donors in New York to discuss financing a potential campaign. At those meetings, he discussed setting up a leadership PAC, as a bunch of other probable candidates have done in recent weeks.
"Obviously this summer we have to figure out what the situation is. Are people responding to my message? Are they lining up to hear more of what I say after I speak? Clearly there's been a little bit of a spark in my public speeches," Ehrlich said. "Can that spark cause more sparks? Are there more groups that want to hear me?"
If Ehrlich does decide to run, he'd be considered a huge long shot in what's shaping up to be a very deep field of candidates for the GOP nomination. Asked how he could compete against possible rivals with major name recognition such as Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie, Ehrlich said, "That's not where we are right now. That's not where my mind is right now. That doesn't reflect my present status."
"Right now for our purposes that really doesn't matter," he added. "I've been very careful with the people we've talked to and the people we've met in not getting ahead of ourselves."
Ehrlich was elected Maryland governor in 2002"”a rare Republican in the solidly-Democratic state"”but was defeated in the next two elections by Democrat Martin O'Malley.
"I remark to everyone around me how much New Hampshire reminds me of the 2nd Congressional District of Maryland, my old district," he said, "It's very easy for me to come up and to not just talk about politics and my views but feel very comfortable almost immediately up there."
Besides his stops in New Hampshire, Ehrlich says he's been invited to South Carolina, Florida, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New York for speaking engagements.
Ehrlich added that he's "accepting invites from people who want to hear what I have to say."
Paul Steinhauser is the political director of NH1.