The media may be busy trying to reelect Barack Obama, but it's never too early for them to start grooming the 2016 field. Look no further than the Washington Post, for example.
"O'Malley to set ambitious agenda," read the teaser headline posted this morning at the Post's website. "Watch the Maryland governor deliver his sixth State of the State address now," read the caption beneath a photo showing Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley in front of two American flags. A few hours later, following the speech, an updated teaser headline reading "Gov. O'Malley calls for 'tough choices'" takes readers to an article about O'Malley's February 1 speech in which the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) chief "urged Maryland lawmakers to act on gay marriage, tax hikes."
"Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on Wednesday called on Maryland lawmakers to make a series of 'tough choices,' including voting for several tax increases, that he argued are needed to maintain the state’s top-ranked schools, build its transportation infrastructure and address other priorities," Post staffers John Wagner and Aaron C. Davis began their 11-paragraph recap.
Wagner and Davis relegated the Republican opposition to two sentences in paragraph 6 but quoted seven sentences from O'Malley, allowing him to close out the article with the closing lines of his speech to a state legislature dominated by fellow Democrats:
Wednesday’s speech was an opportunity to make his case for those initiatives individually and collectively to a captive audience of lawmakers and assorted dignitaries.
“May the choices we make on behalf of the people of Maryland — the choices for job creation, the choices for human dignity, the choices for a better future — be the right choices for the generations counting on ours,” the governor said at the close of his speech.
What's more, O'Malley finds not only gauzy coverage in the news pages but solid political coverage by the paper's editorial board. In an editorial in today's paper, the Post approved of Gov. O'Malley's tax hike push in "Maryland steps on the gas"*:
Rather than hiking the flat per-gallon charge, the governor urged a phased-in sales tax, rising to 6 percent by 2016, the same rate charged for goods. If gas prices stay where they are, the governor’s legislation would add about 21 cents a gallon by 2015.
It’s easy to predict that the idea will be unpopular. A poll published last weekend in The Post found about three-quarters of Marylanders opposed to higher taxes for gasoline. And the governor’s strategy (if there is one) of rolling out a gas tax a couple of weeks after proposing new taxes on income, water usage, cigars and Internet sales hardly seems like a recipe for legislative success.
Still, by aiming high — the 6 percent sales tax on gas would yield $615 million annually, more than the increase urged by the commission — Mr. O’Malley may be giving Democratic lawmakers cover to settle for a lesser amount. It is critical that he fight hard for what he has rightly identified as a critically underfunded area.
By contrast, I've not found any coverage by the Washington Post of conservative Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's January 11 State of the Commonwealth speech, although the Post did print an article in the January 11 paper about how Gov. McDonnell (R) urged legislators of both parties to get along. And of course, the Post editorial board often chastises McDonnell -- whose national profile is enhanced by his chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association -- for his staunch line against raising taxes to fund northern Virginia transportation projects.
O'Malley and McDonnell are both considered potential contenders for their perspective parties' 2016 nominations, but it's clear the Post is intent on puffing the profile of the liberal chief executive of the Old Line State rather than the solid conservative from the Old Dominion.
*headlined as "Maryland needs a gas-tax hike to fund transportation needs" in the online version.
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