Place Your Bets on... O'Malley's political fortunes: Is he primed for a presidential run in 2016?

Originally Published in the Baltimore Business Journal

MPPI in the News Sarah Gantz Dec 30, 2012

Gov. Martin O'Malley has danced on the national political stage before. As chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, he's made stops in political hot spots like New Hampshire. The Democratic National Committee gave him a coveted prime time spot for his address at this year's Democratic National Convention. He's nearly a regular on the Sunday morning talk shows.

Political analysts seem to agree that a gig in national politics is of interest to O'Malley. But the move from state politics to national politics is a significant leap -- one that will take careful planning to keep his political career blemishfree until race time, a plan for appealing to a more diverse group of people and money. Lots of money.

"It's a reach of almost galactic portion to go from a medium-size state to the national scene," said Herbert C. Smith, a professor at McDaniel College and coauthor of the book "Maryland Politics and Government: Democratic Dominance. It's a tremendous jump."

O'Malley brings with him a solid track record of getting things done and has already made progress in introducing himself to voters in other states, both key to creating a positive image for a national office run, said Don Kettl, dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, College Park.

O'Malley's administration bet big on health reform, pushing Maryland as a trailblazer in implementing the federal Affordable Care Act while other states waited to see whether the Supreme Court would deem the law unconstitutional or whether a new Republican administration would de-fang the legislation. The approval this November of three controversial ballot initiatives -- tuition for immigrant children, same-sex marriage and expanded gambling -- was also seen as a major win for O'Malley, who had pushed hard for all three.

"It's very clear the American public hungers for someone who can step in and solve the big problems," Kettl said. "Governors actually get to do things -- not just cut ribbons, but implement programs that affect a lot of people."

The fact that O'Malley has succeeded in getting his ideas passed in Maryland may have gained him some recognition. But how and why he has succeeded may not appeal to more moderate voters, said Christopher Summers, president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute.

"Maryland is very progressive -- the rest of the country is just not like that," Summers said.

Summers said the fact that Maryland is so liberal means O'Malley's compromising and negotiation skills may not be up to snuff for national office.

Another big change, should O'Malley shoot for a national office, is the amount of money it takes to fuel a successful campaign.

O'Malley raised more than $12 million for his 2010 race against Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. But that's a drop in the bucket compared to presidential races. The campaigns and parties of Mitt Romney and President Obama spent about $1 billion each.