Palin backs Brian Murphy in Md. GOP governor’s race

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Brian Murphy, a little-known Republican candidate for Maryland governor, unexpectedly won an endorsement Wednesday from one of the biggest names in national politics: Sarah Palin.

Palin’s decision to side with Murphy over former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) in September’s GOP primary prompted plenty of head-scratching in Maryland political circles. But it remained unclear what impact the endorsement might have in a state where the “tea party” movement has not packed nearly as much punch as elsewhere.

Murphy, 33, a business investor from Montgomery County, has tried to position himself as a more conservative alternative to Ehrlich on issues including taxes and gun rights. But prior to Wednesday, Murphy’s candidacy had been considered so much of a long shot that most pollsters had not bothered to measure his support.

Ehrlich boosters, meanwhile, argued that being shunned by Palin could actually help him in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 2 to 1. To defeat Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) in the November general election, Ehrlich will need to draw significant support from Democrats and independents, some of whom harbor great antipathy toward the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee.

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