By Julie Baughman
Capital News Service
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley used his prime-time slot at the Democratic National Convention Tuesday to make the case for Obama’s record on jobs and the economy.
The president “is moving America forward, not back,” O’Malley repeated, hammering home the Obama campaign’s slogan. Five times, he encouraged the crowd to chant along with him and wave their “Forward. Not Back” signs in unison. The signs had been distributed in advance on the floor.
“Democratic governors, with the support of our president, are leading their states forward — putting job creation first, balancing budgets, protecting priorities, making the tough decisions, right now, to create jobs and expand opportunity,” O’Malley said. “Together with President Obama, we are moving America forward, not back.”
No other governors are scheduled to speak in primetime, providing Maryland delegates a rare chance to cheer on their home-state governor at the convention.
O’Malley took the fight directly to the Republicans, too, saying, “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan now say they want to take America back. And so we ask: Back to what? Back to the failed policies that drove us into a deep recession?…No thank you. I don’t want to go back.”
Praise from Democrats
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said O’Malley did exactly what he needed to do in order to set the stage for the election.
“I thought Governor O’Malley set the right tone and he made it clear that this election is about choice,” Brown said.
Brown also was pleased O’Malley highlighted Maryland’s successes in the speech and their importance in relation to the national campaign.
“I think there’s a very clear contrast. The governor appropriately pointed to successes in Maryland which are based in large part on what the president has been doing on a national level,” Brown said.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also lauded O’Malley’s performance and was impressed with his passion and energy.
“He had a lot of positive energy. You can tell from being here that the entire area was engaged and hanging on his words,” Rawlings-Blake said. “There’s a lot of energy and excitement, much more than at the Republican Convention because we know what’s at stake.”
On the floor, the delegates paid little attention to the first couple minutes of O’Malley’s 10 p.m. speech in which he talked about Marylanders key role in the American revolution. But the crowd engaged as got into the meat of the speech.
Yvette Lewis, chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party, said she was proud of her governor. Lewis said she was so overwhelmed at one point that she couldn’t even speak anymore.
“I couldn’t even cheer,” Lewis said. “I just wanted to sit there and absorb it.”
Two Maryland Republicans who are eyeing a run for governor jeered O’Malley’s speech in emails immediately after he gave it, according to MarylandReporter.com.
Harford County Executive David Craig said: “This past Sunday, Governor Martin O’Malley, in a brief moment of candor, set aside his usual smoke and mirrors to admit that we are not better off today then we were four years ago.
“In a statement, which he immediately attempted to spin and retract, Governor O’Malley admitted what the people of Maryland have known as fact for years: both President Obama and Governor O’Malley have failed to curb record unemployment and revive a depressed economy. Most importantly, we know that we cannot survive four more years of these failed policies, which have led us down a path of endless tax hikes, ever-increasing deficits, and countless unfunded mandates.
“Can Marylanders honestly trust the governor’s opinion of the past four years, after he raised taxes on the middle class and shifted millions of dollars in unfunded mandates to local government? The reality is Maryland has suffered a double dose of failed policies under the leadership of Governor O’Malley and President Obama. We are not better off; the citizens of this state and this country deserve better.”
Larry Hogan of Change Maryland said: “Governor O’Malley talks a lot about ‘moving forward’ but here in Maryland his policies have slammed us into reverse and have us stuck in a ditch.”
Hogan went on: “If Governor O’Malley worked in a bipartisan manner in his six years in office, state government would have made the tough choices needed to restore economic performance. Instead, he criticizes others and relishes partisan attack-dog politics rather than focusing on the hard work of governing.”
“Under Martin O’Malley, Maryland lags behind our region in attracting jobs, businesses and those who pay taxes. Make no mistake, modern investments in a modern economy is just code language for more tax-and-spend governing like we have had here in Maryland.”
O’Malley’s packed schedule
O’Malley’s speech came after long day with a packed schedule.
He began the morning by leading the Maryland delegation in the now iconic “Fired up! Ready to go!” chant, popularized by candidate Barack Obama during his 2008 campaign, and giving a short speech Tuesday morning at a breakfast hosted by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.
Tuesday was O’Malley day at the Democratic National Convention — he gave a high-profile convention speech, roused the Maryland delegation, spoke briefly on the floor as a Rules Committee co-chairman and spoke on behalf of his home state at the Democratic Governor’s Association panel on the economy.
Delegates took O’Malley’s role as a mark of pride for the state.
“We’re honored,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “I think Martin O’Malley is emerging as a great national leader.”
Shortly after breakfast, O’Malley arrived in the Google tent in uptown Charlotte to participate in the “Growing Our Economy and Investing in Infrastructure” panel featuring other notable participants, including Coca-Cola Co. President and CEO Steve Cahillane, Microsoft Vice President U.S. Public Sector Curt Kolcun and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
The group discussed the importance of spending, job creation and investment in infrastructure in growing our economy, a recurring theme in O’Malley’s comments throughout the day.
That afternoon, O’Malley helped the Maryland delegation honor Sargent Shriver, who ran on George McGovern’s 1972 ticket, at the Mint Museum in downtown Charlotte before preparing for the night’s opening convention session.
O’Malley was modest about his not-so-modest role in the convention this week and said he was here solely to support Obama and ensure his re-election. However, political observers say O’Malley may have his eyes on the 2016 presidential race.
“I’m all about the president,” O’Malley said. “This is not the Martin O”Malley story, nor frankly, is it the Maryland story. This is about President Obama and the better choices he’s making, the choices that are moving us forward.”
Salisbury Mayor and convention delegate James Ireton echoed this sentiment.
“The governor is so squarely focused on where he’s going to take the state. He’s so squarely focused on working with congressional delegation, with president Obama, with the cabinet secretaries, on moving us forward.”
Kamenetz thinks that, although O’Malley is focused on President Obama, he has to be doing some networking this week.
“I know that Governor O’Malley is here to support President Obama and to ensure President Obama’s re-election but at the same time I know Governor O’Malley is going to utilize the opportunities to continue his outreach to different states and to the delegations here,” Kamenetz said. “Frankly he’s the future of our party, and why not showcase people like that? That’s very important for the national audience to get another taste of him.”
Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com contributed to this story.