Playing the "nice guy" pays off once in a while.

At least that's the take of Republican Rep. Bob Ehrlich, who had been locked in a tight race with Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend for the governor's chair.

It was Townsend’s race to lose. Positioned in the key spot to take over for Gov. Parris Glendening, Townsend was as a less-than-articulate candidate who floundered much of the time in search of a message.

She might’ve found it when, in the wake of the Beltway Sniper attacks, she slammed her opponent's voting record on gun-control issues in a series of harsh ads that highlighted his vote against a ban on assault rifles. She also attempted to paint Ehrlich as too conservative for the state.

But hopes that a heated late September debate in which Townsend did better than expected could boost her numbers were dashed, as many viewers didn’t tune into the program.

Ehrlich, who said he would lift Glendening’s moratorium on the death penalty, played defensively, saying Townsend was cynically trying to capitalize on the region’s recent tragedy.