After Maryland Senate Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill, Gov. Martin O'Malley Clashes With Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on Abortion and Gay Marriage

As the 2012 election heats up, governors from all across the country prepare to meet for the winter session of the 2012 National Governors Association. This Friday, Politico’s John Harris hosted a discussion featuring governors Martin O’Malley (D-MD) and Bob McDonnell (R-VA) for the Politico-sponsored “State Solutions Conference” at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

McDonnell and O’Malley each serve as chairman for their respective party’s governors associations and are both considered viable national figures for the future of their parties in election cycles to come.

Governor O’Malley, speaking next to Governor McDonnell, gave the best defense of President Obama’s policies and the harshest criticism yet of GOP-lead states. Other governors gave praise for the president too, but O’Malley’s take on contrasting Obama’s record with that of the GOP’s stood out among the rest of what the visiting governors had to say.

O’Malley said that he is “proud of the difficult things our President has done” and that he is not shy about supporting him while “so many Democrats are losing their tongues.” On Obama’s record, O’Malley cites that Virginia did not turn away any of the stimulus money provided by the Recovery and Reinvestment Act and both Maryland and Virginia have lower unemployment rates because of it.

When it came to the auto industry bailout and its resulting success, O’Malley stated that one “cannot say he (President Obama) was unsuccessful in doing that; you cannot say that we haven’t had 23 months of solid growth.” O’Malley goes on to say, “Last year, Governor McDonnell, more jobs were created in the private sector in America while President Obama was President than during all 8 years of George W. Bush.” Citing the “failed policies” of the Bush administration, Governor O’Malley cited the study showing that Mitt Romney’s take on a budget proposal would only make the national debt worse. As for the choice presented to the American electorate in the upcoming election, O’Malley said, “we could go forward, or we could go back.”

The “hard right turn” O’Malley mentioned was his rhetorical knockout where he cites the poor job creation numbers by GOP led states like Wisconsin, Florida, and Ohio. O’Malley went on to mention the salient “social wedge issues” Republican governors and legislatures have been ramping up in recent months. “Outlawing gay relationships, outlawing women’s rights, and outlawing unions” were among the harshest criticisms O’Malley directed toward McDonnell.

In response, Governor McDonnell quipped, “Governor O’Malley is the only one with social issues on the top of his agenda,” referring to Maryland’s attempting to pass gay marriage. “I don’t,” Governor McDonnell said, “I’m not sure what he is talking about.”

What O’Malley was referring to is Virginia’s recent attempt and failure for a trans-vaginal ultrasound mandate prior to an abortion as well as a proposal for a personhood bill, which failed as well. Both of these legislative defeats for Governor McDonnell are the reasons why the Aaron Blake at the Washington Post writes that McDonnell had the “worst week in Washington.”

O’Malley may have also been talking about what McDonnell said about traditional couples and raising children when he said at the same conference, “Most of the data that I’ve read that the best environment for a child to grow up to be fully capable of achieving the American dream and having the best start at life in an intact two-parent family made up of a man and a woman.” One should note that no such data exists.

Governor Martin O’Malley stood out well among the gathering governors in Washington D.C. Friday. It would behoove Democratic party leaders to take notice of him. Who knows, maybe we will see O’Malley again come 2016. Democratic voters just have wait and see to find out.

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