Josh Kurtz: Only 2,114 Days Till Election Day 2016

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Let’s not get too carried away with this Martin O’Malley for president business just yet.

For starters, it’s an absurd notion now if only for the simple fact that 2016 is five years away.

But there are many other reasons to tamp down the talk. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that at least 15 other governors, with varying degrees of seriousness, are also being talked about as potential candidates for president in 2012 or beyond, including Bob McDonnell (R) just across the Potomac in Virginia. Three current governors – California’s Jerry Brown (D), Ohio’s John Kasich (R) and Kansas’ Sam Brownback (R) – have already run for president unsuccessfully, and the two Republicans may try again. (Brown is an incredible survivor and an inspiring story, but he’s 72 now, and by his own admission his decades-long White House ambitions have finally dissipated.)

Let’s also not forget about former governors who might wind up running for president. And though he’ll be 73 then and she’ll be 69, both Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton could be White House candidates in 2016 as well.

For the people who follow Maryland politics closely, speculating about a governor stepping up to become a candidate for national office is irresistible – and inevitable. After all, people talked openly about Bob Ehrlich (R) being added to a national ticket some day. Parris Glendening (D) even got some mention. Some friends of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s (D) were measuring the White House drapes for her before she was elected governor, and we know how well that worked out.

Maryland has never elected a president, and Spiro Agnew was our only vice president – and he was a disgrace to the state and its political culture. Small wonder Maryland insiders hunger for another crack at the big show. Think, if Martin O’Malley runs for president, what national celebrities John Wagner and Bruce DePuyt and Lou Davis will become.

Of course, similar speculation, similar dreams, are taking place right this minute in every statehouse where there’s even the remote possibility of the governor running for president some day.

Let’s stipulate that O’Malley has way more raw political talent than Ehrlich, Glendening, Townsend and every other modern Maryland governor. Let’s also acknowledge that O’Malley is doing and saying all the right things to keep himself, if not quite in the national spotlight, then close enough so that he can take advantage of the political opportunities when they present themselves.

All that said, it’s still awfully early to be talking about him running for president right now. Chances are, even O’Malley would acknowledge that. There are too many challenges facing him at home – and thousands of unknowable news cycles ahead – before any of this talk can be taken too seriously.

The budget O’Malley unveiled Friday shows just how serious the challenges are. It was very serious business, with plenty for both friends and foes to dislike.

His tentative steps toward pension reform are especially noteworthy – and represent a major challenge to the public employee unions that have been the bedrock of Democratic support for decades, in Maryland and nationally. A pension overhaul may win O’Malley plaudits from Wall Street and editorial writers, but it won’t necessarily win votes in a Democratic presidential nominating contest.

What’s also interesting as the budget season in Annapolis begins is the lack of unanimity at the outset between O’Malley and the legislative leaders. After expressing his reluctance to raise taxes during his re-election campaign, O’Malley is now all but daring the legislature to do so, saying it’s something he and lawmakers need to keep an open mind about.

Senate President Mike Miller (D) is advocating raising the gas tax while aggressively pooh-poohing the idea of raising the alcohol tax, while House Speaker Mike Busch (D) has been noticeably silent on the tax question so far. (It doesn’t seem like any of the coverage of Miller’s pronouncements have mentioned the fact that his family owns B.K. Miller’s, one of the biggest liquor stores in southern Prince George’s County, whose website advises, “The party starts here.”)

Raising taxes is of course anathema to every politician. But for Maryland legislators, the first year of a four-year term is the least politically painful time to do it. What’s more, the gas tax hasn’t been hiked since the early 1990’s, and alcohol taxes were last raised a couple of generations ago. Chances are the voters won’t like the tax increases when they first hear about them, but will promptly forget them and grudgingly, if not willingly, pay the freight.

O’Malley for months has been warning everybody how brutal this year’s budget process will be, and he’s probably right. But if he can get through this year without inflicting too much pain, if he can look ahead to a day when Maryland can begin to tackle some of its long-term challenges, then he will have accomplished something tangible and laudable. And then, maybe, the future will take care of itself.

In politics, you can still do well by doing good.

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at .

Previous Center Maryland columns by Josh Kurtz:

An Old Timer Holds Forth on Annapolis

Maryland's Moment?

Happy New War

Nobody Asked Me, but…

To the Mooney...

Can Baker Cook Up Real Change?

Preppies at the Gate

Marylanders (Still) on the National Stage

We Don’t Know Jack: Fallout from Johnson Arrest Could be Far-reaching

After Ehrlich

Tomorrow Never Knows

To Be Frank (Part 2)

The More Things Change....

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Polls Apart

Van Hollen's Burden

Not Rhee-a-listic

Tomorrow’s Headlines Today!

20th Century Comes to Baltimore County

Primary Colors

Murphy the Smurf

A Gene for Public Service

No Agnew Here

The Full Montgomery

Shock and Tawes

Uly's Gold

Death and Deadlines

Bad News for Democrats From Washington to Washington County

Mr. Smith Goes ... Where?

End of the Line for Vallario?

Mission: Control

Post Plays Favorites

Red Storm Rising

Michael & Me

Wanted: Fresh Blood


Black and Blue?


Take Me Back to Old Virginny

The Political Lives of Peter Franchot

Bob and Weave

How to Make Prince George's County King

Kane is Able

To Be Frank

Gay Rights and Political Wrongs?

The Washington Post Goes to War

Snow Job

Unsolicited Advice for Ehrlich — Wait Till 2014

The Early Bird Gets the Worm?

Wayne's World May Be Another Planet

Miller Time Comes Early

Owings Owes an Explanation
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Josh Kurtz has been writing about Maryland politics since late 1995. Louie Goldstein, William Donald Schaefer and Pete Rawlings were alive, but the Intercounty Connector, as far as anyone could tell, was dead.

But some things never change: Mike Miller is still in charge of the Senate. Gerry Evans and Bruce Bereano are among the top-earning lobbyists in Annapolis. Steny Hoyer is still waiting for Nancy Pelosi to disappear. And Maryland Republicans are still struggling to be relevant.

The media landscape in Maryland has changed a lot, and Kurtz is happy to write weekly for Center Maryland. He's been writing a column for the website since it launched in January 2010.

In his "real" job, Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily down on Capitol Hill. But he'll always find Maryland politics more fascinating.

Kurtz grew up in New York City and attended public schools there. He has a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. He's married with two daughters and lives in Takoma Park, Md. He hopes you'll drop him a line, or maybe go out for a meal with him, because he's always hungry -- for political gossip.