Rascovar Commentary: Perry vs. O’Malley – Early Presidential Showdown?

Two longshots slug it out in Maryland

By Barry Rascovar

For MarylandReporter.com

Rick Perry with a hat and a gun on a horse

Rick Perry by DonkeyHotey

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is poaching in Maryland. He’s camouflaged his Wednesday visit as an economic development pitch — including a $500,000 TV and radio ad blitz — to get companies to move from Maryland to low-tax, pro-business Texas.

He’s not fooling anyone.

It’s all part of Perry’s nascent presidential campaign for 2016. His move-to-Texas gambit comes with plenty of media coverage and new fund-raising contacts. He’s done it in other states that just happen to have important primaries like California, New York, Illinois, Missouri and Connecticut, where Perry needs to connect with Republican voters well before the 2016 GOP primary heats up.

It’s a brash, aggressive move that underlines Perry’s macho reputation for sweeping aside political niceties.

Maryland ideal for Perry visit

Maryland is an ideal state for Perry to visit, which is ironic considering the state’s overwhelming Democratic tendencies.

By hammering hard in the ads at Maryland’s “job killer” tax increases and the state’s anti-business reputation, Perry sparked a sharp response from Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, who shares Perry’s presidential ambitions.

“All hat and no cattle,” quipped the Maryland governor. (That’s a Western and Midwestern expression for folks who wear cowboy hats but have never worked a farm.)

You can expect lots of similar zingers from O’Malley this week and perhaps a mano a mano meeting with the Austin poacher. The Baltimore and Washington media will eat it up. That’s precisely what Perry wants.

The two governors are ideological poles apart on issues and philosophy. It’s O’Malley’s strident New Deal liberalism versus Perry’s strident right-of-Reagan conservatism.

Both pols want the combat

Martin O'Malley by DonkeyHotey on Flickr

Martin O’Malley by DonkeyHotey on Flickr (DonkeyHotey is a wonderful artist who has done caricatures of hundreds of political figures.)

A war of words is the script both politicians desire. The more media coverage this visit generates, the more Perry and O’Malley grab much-needed visibility.

It’s true that Texas has a warm and cozy relationship with its business community. You don’t see Texas leaders bashing businesses. O’Malley, though, has resorted to angry denunciations of corporations to emphasize his dedication to working men and women. Any time O’Malley needs a scapegoat, he lobs a verbal grenade in the direction of Corporate America.

That’s why O’Malley will have a hard time disputing Perry’s statement that Maryland has a negative reputation with the business community. A CNBC survey this summer placed the Free State near the bottom when it comes to its business climate. (Texas ranked No. 2. Maryland was No. 40)

Advantage O’Malley

The fact that O’Malley’s hostile comments and actions drag down Maryland’s efforts to recruit new companies and jobs is of scant concern to the governor. State corporate leaders are not fond of the governor’s policies, but they have to cooperate. As Maryland governor, O’Malley holds all the high cards.

O’Malley is most vulnerable on the 40 times he’s raised taxes or fees while in office. Many of those increases socked it to the business community.

In sharp contrast, Texas has a sterling reputation for keeping corporate taxes low and companies happy.

Historically, the Lone Star State has limited government intrusions. The opposite is the case in Maryland.

Down With Washington!

While O’Malley yearns for a return to the days of FDR and LBJ when liberalism dominated Washington’s power centers, Perry expresses disdain for virtually everything related to the nation’s capital.

In his 2012 campaign book, “On Fire! Our Fight to Save America from Washington,” Perry calls Social Security unconstitutional, Medicare too expensive, banking laws unnecessary, consumer protection unneeded and federal education policy illegal.

He’s an unabashed Tea Party conservative who comes close to mouthing the words from that movie classic, “Network”:  “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Maryland: The ‘Tax and Fee State’

For O’Malley, his spat with Perry indicates what he’ll face as a national campaigner. His record on taxes is unprecedented in Maryland history.

It is true that many of those tax  levies were needed to help state and local governments weather the Great Recession, but this subtle distinction is lost on a public that only reads headlines, not the fine print below.

And while Maryland’s governor can point to high-achieving schools, low-tuition state colleges and a “green” environmental record, his critics need only point to all those increased taxes and the frightening violence and murder rate in the state’s largest city.

Benefitting from Texas fracking boom

Perry’s situation is quite different.

He’s been governor of Texas for 13 years and that state’s economy is charging ahead, thanks in large measure to the oil and gas fracking boom.

He can brag about keeping taxes down and free enterprise free of government entanglements.  He also can draw cheers from conservative crowds by denouncing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as un-American. (He skips over Texas’ abysmal record in helping the poor.)

By starting his presidential campaign early, Perry hopes to gain far more name recognition across the country than in 2012. He’ll be better organized this time, too.

Yet he’s still a longshot, as is O’Malley.

In that regard they are much alike – two ambitious governors nearing the end of their terms with nothing better to do than reach for the brass ring that might lead to a presidential showdown.

Barry RascovarRascovar has been reporting and commenting on Maryland and national politics and government since 1971, first for the Baltimore Sun, then the Gazette of Politics and Business and The Community Times. We are publishing his columns simultaneously with his own blog, PoliticalMaryland.com.



About The Author

Len Lazarick


Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Angry Maryland Taxpayer

    Owe’Malley is a clown and a joke for President. Which is saying a lot, given the current joke occupying the chair.

  2. hungrypirana

    Let’s hope Perry can goad O’Malley into going to Texas.

  3. Country_Dog

    I escaped from The Peoples’ Soviet of Maryland years ago with no regrets. Well one regret – I didn’t have the opportunity to leave earlier. How’s that rain tax doing for ya? But then the commissars need the money as The Peoples’ Soviet of Maryland is sanctuary state: all those undocumented democrats need money and their newly minted legal children will need the money for generations to come. Yep the serfs only need to learn the letter “D,” and only when the Politburo rigs, err, arranges a new election. And D also stands for detroit – your future. Keep o’malley in The Peoples’ Soviet. You deserve him.

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