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
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?
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:
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:
It gets even worse. Cuomo's office recently released a letter regarding Cuomo's shady relationship with a gambling special interest:
Note that the letter was released the Friday afternoon before last, the day of the Aurora shooting. Seems odd to dump bad news the day dozens of people were shot in a killing spree.
But if O'Malley exhibited a failure to lead in the face of a disaster and Cuomo hid bad news behind a national tragedy, one Democratic governor recently faced a crisis and proved he might be capable of handling higher office. So far, only Stephanie Simon of Reuters seems to have noticed:
Hickenlooper has been mentioned as a 2016 contender before. In addition to having high approval ratings as governor of an important swing state, it's worth noting he's demonstrated a fair degree of independence from the liberal party orthodoxy—for instance, Hickenlooper has defended oil and gas companies's use of hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. "fracking", which is deeply unpopular with environmentalists.
If Hickenlooper's surprising popularity holds following his leadership role in handling Colorado's recent wildfires and the Aurora shooting, Democrats ought to start waking up to the fact he's cut from presidential timber.