By MATT MCNAB
TAMPA, Fla.—Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley made a surprise appearance in Tampa Tuesday, criticizing Republican candidate Mitt Romney and other high-profile Republicans, leading to a quick, critical response by the state's delegates.
O'Malley appeared at the Democrats' "rapid-response" center just outside the convention's security perimeter at a press conference Tuesday, slamming Romney's economic plan and his record at Bain Capital.
"Romney economics would spell disaster for America's middle class," he said. "Gov. Romney does not have what it takes to grow this economy. The lessons he learned as a corporate buyout specialist were not lessons that should be applied to a national economy."
O'Malley, who as chairman of the Democratic Governor's Association has taken a prominent role in this year's campaign, was especially critical of Romney's private sector experience, calling Romney out over a lack of middle class job creation.
"The type of business experience that Mitt Romney has during his time at Bain Capital is not the experience of job creation," he said. "It is not the experience that led to a stronger, growing middle class. It is not the experience that led to job creation on a national scale."
O'Malley also slammed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Romney's running mate, U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, over middle class job creation.
"Tonight you're going to see Chris Christie, a governor who has the fourth worst unemployment rate in the country, giving his angry, Don Rickles keynote," he said, "extolling the virtues of their candidate, Mitt Romney, and holding up as their new face, Congressman Ryan, part of the most unpopular House of Representatives in modern times."
O'Malley's appearance led to members of Maryland's delegation calling an impromptu afternoon press conference, held on a walkway in the Tampa Convention Center.
"Gov. O'Malley crashing our convention is a waste of time," said Maryland Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin. "And he should not be talking about jobs after the dismal performance over the last few months."
Maryland House Minority Leader and U.S. House of Representatives candidate Tony O'Donnell said O'Malley was making "a mockery of the free-enterprise system" in the state.
"The country deserves to know what a fraud O'Malley is," he said. "We have a structural deficit of over $1 billion, we're losing jobs at a higher rate than anyone else in the country and we have an underfunded pension system. There's much to do in our state. The Democratic folks are very desperate to hold on to their national power."
Maryland Republican delegate and New Day Maryland PAC President Charles Lollar agreed.
"It's not a tranquil state at all," he said. "We have a $1 billion deficit and a governor who expects to cover that with revenues from taxes we haven't even seen yet. We're the second-wealthiest state in the country and we still continue to raise taxes."
O'Donnell said O'Malley's presence in Tampa likely would mean a Republican presence in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention next week, but he does not plan on attending.
"I won't be in Charlotte," he said. "I've got bigger fish to fry running against Steny Hoyer."
Pipkin closed his comments by taking a dig at O'Malley's Irish band, which is slated to perform at the Democratic National Convention next week in Charlotte.
"We look forward to his performance in the convention as part of his band," he said.
Tuesday's stop isn't O'Malley's only scheduled visit to Tampa. He is set to appear on an MSNBC talk show on Friday alongside Christie, but O'Donnell said he wouldn't be watching.
"I'm going to avoid it at all costs," he said.