Voters in 2012 will have a clear choice, as Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley sees it. They can support Republicans, who have pursued what he called "impractical and extreme, right-wing ideology" or Democrats, who he says have balanced budgets and created modest job growth.The chairman of the Democratic Governors Association is making it an argument with presidential implications.
"Some of the most important work that will be going on as far as it plays into the presidential race will be the contrast of Democratic governors … who make the tough decisions and the right investments to create jobs and opportunity and Republican governors who have given us the trickle-down economics and frankly some really mean-spirited, narrow-minded right wing ideology that hasn't created a single job," O'Malley said Monday at a National Press Club "Newsmakers" press conference. "That will be the choice."
He touted his own achievements in Maryland, including cutting spending while continuing to invest in education and ranking 10th among the states for new job creation so far this year. He also highlighted the work of other Democratic governors, including Connecticut's Dannel Malloy, Delaware's Jack Markell, North Carolina's Bev Perdue, and the recently re-elected Steve Beshear of Kentucky.
"Across our country, Democratic governors in the toughest of times are balancing budgets, are making tough choices, are creating jobs and moving forward and doing it all at the same time," O'Malley said.
Polls show Americans' focused nearly universally on the economy as their top issue and O'Malley said Democrats will benefit by framing the election on the economic records of governors.
"It's about the governing choices and economic policies the Democratic governors are making to accelerate that jobs recovery. And the very different set of choices that I see being made by many Republican governors," he said, highlighting the recent rebuke voters in Ohio gave Republican Gov. John Kasich. Kasich's law would have curbed collective bargaining rights for public sector unions, including teachers, firefighters and police. It was handily rejected in a statewide referendum last week.
O'Malley also claimed Republican governors are continuing to promote Ronald Reagan's vision of trickle-down economics as a model for success even though he said evidence is piled up against it.
"By their own trickle-down theory, the massive concentration of wealth should have brought about better times and not economic disaster. If their theory worked, millions of jobs should have been created by now by this extreme concentration of wealth – the greatest concentration that's ever happened in one sliver of our population since the 1920's," he said. "There should be jobs falling from the sky and washing up on American beaches."
U.S. unemployment is currently about 9 percent, a figure that many experts say needs to come down in order to improve President Barack Obama's re-election chances.
Mike Schrimpf, a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association, dismissed O'Malley's arguments.
"Voters care about results, and that's why states with Republican governors dominate any list of best states in which to do business," he says in an e-mail statement. "Republican governors are making their states more competitive by holding the line on taxes, tackling unsustainable entitlements and preparing the next generation through historic education reforms."