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Which Democratic Governor Is Ready for Primetime?

Forget O'Malley and Cuomo, could Colorado governor John Hickenlooper emerge as the Democratic presidential frontrunner in 2016?

4:59 PM, Jul 30, 2012 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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Now that—perish the thought—it looks increasingly possible that Barack Obama might lose in November, it's only natural that speculation about Democratic possibilities for 2016 is starting to ramp up. Yes, there's the obvious caveat that the Democratic nomination is probably Hillary Clinton's for the taking should she want it. But it's worth asking: Who else is on the Democratic bench?

Hickenlooper

There are two names that keep popping up—Maryland governor Martin O'Malley and New York governor Andrew Cuomo. However, two recent crises suggest that both men lack the capability and character for higher office.

O'Malley is a likeable guy with an engaging public persona and...that's about it. Maryland is a fiscal basket case and O'Malley has a "tax-raising legacy" and the "governor would have to defend increases in White House run," according to his hometown paper.  And then there's the small matter of PEPCO, Maryland's hated public utility that has repeatedly left thousands without power—a problem that reached new heights during the recent derecho storm that hit the East Coast. At the Atlantic, Gregg Easterbook summed up O'Malley's PEPCO problem:

Meanwhile Maryland's governor is Martin O'Malley, constantly mentioned -- just ask him! -- as the Democratic Party's hope for the White House in 2016. Yet in six years in office, O'Malley has done nothing to address his state's power-utility woes.

Four days after an unusually strong "derecho" thunderstorm struck the nation's capital area, Dominion Power, the utility for the Northern Virginia suburbs around Washington, D.C., had restored 67 percent of its outages. BG&E, the utility for Baltimore, had restored 61 percent. Together these two high-performing utilities had restored power to about 750,000 customers by the fourth day. The woeful Pepco, which serves Montgomery County and parts of D.C., had restored just 43 percent of its outages, bringing a mere 200,000 back online. Some 239,000 Pepco customers remained without power, and the utility was saying it would be until Friday night before power was back, and then only to 90 percent of outages. This is happening as a heat wave pushes daily temperatures close to 100 degrees.

Montgomery County, Maryland, is one of the nation's bluest and wealthiest counties; its perennially awful power service raises the question of whether liberals can make the trains run on time.

Since the storm, PEPCO has announced it will charging its customers extra to make up for revenues lost because of the storm outages, and the utility complained quite publicly when the Maryland legislature only approved $18 million of its requested $68 million rate increase in the wake of its catastrophic failure. (Note that the outages following the derecho were just the latest and worst of a series of severe PEPCO outages in recent years.) So yes, that's O'Malley in a nutshell—a tax raiser who can't even keep the lights on.

The case against Cuomo isn't as strong but still troubling. It's true that Cuomo has done some good things fiscally, and the way he shepherded legalizing gay marriage through the state legislature showed a surprising amount of political skill, even if the stance might not have national appeal. However, we recently got a reminder that New York politics remain a cesspool, and Cuomo is up to his neck in it.  Last week, the New York Times reported:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration, already drawing attention for its focus on secrecy, has now begun editing his record as New York attorney general, sending aides to the state archives to remove key documents from public view.

It gets even worse. Cuomo's office recently released a letter regarding Cuomo's shady relationship with a gambling special interest:

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