For most of the nation, presidential campaign politics are playing out in far-away places like Michigan, Florida, New Hampshire and Iowa as Republican candidates take turns eviscerating one another and swapping leads in the polls.
But do not despair, residents of the Free State. We have a sideshow of our very own, which is taking shape daily in Annapolis. It’s about the 2016 presidential race and Gov. Martin O’Malley’s apparent ambitions in that regard.
For some time now, the governor’s attempts to burnish his national profile while serving as head of the Democratic Governors Association have been the topic of conversations over coffee and cocktails in state political circles.
A popular pastime has been speculating what cabinet post the governor might go for — Homeland Security seems to rank high among the speculators — if President Obama wins a second term.
But now that speculation is spilling into public view, often accompanied by barbed rhetoric.
After Comptroller Peter Franchot assailed O’Malley’s proposal to raises taxes on gasoline as “an absolute punch to the gut of the middle class,” the governor responded by calling fellow Democrat Franchot “kind of our version of Mitt Romney.”
Franchot retorted, “I’m sorry if I’m getting in the way of his presidential efforts, but I’m doing my job as comptroller.” (Interesting words from a man who is presumed to be running his own campaign for governor of Maryland.)
O’Malley was also pummeled with the p-word when he testified before two House committees in favor of his same-sex marriage bill, a popular issue with Democrats nationally.
The Washington Post reported that Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr., D-Baltimore County, a leading opponent of the bill, “suggested that O’Malley must want to match New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat who helped pass a same-sex marriage bill last year and who, like O’Malley, has been talked about for national office in 2016.”
“I would love to see our governor as president of the United States, but not on the backs of his own people,” Burns said. Ouch.
So there you have it — presidential politics, Maryland style. And it’s just beginning.