By MATT MCNAB
TAMPA, Fla. - Several prominent Democrats, led by Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, made unexpected appearances in Tampa this week, prompting Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to respond that Republicans aren't fazed.
"They can do what they want, but whatever they do we can do 10 times over," Priebus said Thursday. "What goes around comes around."
Led by two Maryland politicians—O'Malley and U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington—a contingent of Democrats have slammed Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in Tampa. Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, also made an appearance at the convention Thursday.
Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to be here earlier in the week, but cancelled because of Hurricane Isaac.
Todd Eberly, a political scientist at St. Mary's College, said the 24-hour news cycle and the current, closely contested presidential race have contributed to the decision to show up at the normally off-limits conventions.
"The parties have decided they can't cede any time to one another," he said. "It's going to continue to escalate as time goes by. I wouldn't be surprised to see the conventions happening over the same four days, so that they can instantly refute any claims the other party makes."
Eberly pointed to one example from the last election cycle.
"Barack Obama accepting the Democratic presidential nomination was a huge speech and was going to provide a big boost," he said. "The day after, John McCain announced his running mate and stepped all over any bump or poll increase Obama got."
Maryland Republican delegates quickly put together a press conference Tuesday to criticize O'Malley's appearance the same day, but were surprised to hear of Van Hollen's Wednesday trip to Tampa.
Harford County Executive David Craig said the Democrats' appearance around Tampa would mean a Republican surrogate in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention next week.
"I find it interesting, because there's supposedly been a protocol or a courtesy in the past, that when one party had their convention, the other party just sort of took the week off," he said. "But they're not doing that, so if we did that next week, which we may do, they're going to get angry with us and say, 'wait a minute, you shouldn't be doing that.'
"But they're the ones that are starting it. If that's the way they're going to be, it's going to be that way from now on."
In their appearances, both O'Malley and Van Hollen criticized Romney's economic plan.
O'Malley called the plan a "disaster for the middle class" at a press conference Tuesday at the Democrats' war room just outside the convention's security perimeter.
Van Hollen took his appearance a step further, actually entering the security perimeter to appear in an interview with Politico Thursday in the Tampa Convention Center.
After the interview, Van Hollen said the Romney plan is "wrong for America" and spoke of its "very negative impact on the state of Maryland."
University of Richmond political scientist Daniel Palazzolo said more of a presence by the opposing party at future conventions could become the new norm.
"They are not going to handle it in the traditional, hands off style," he said. "In this polarized, partisan political environment, with such a narrow margin involved, I'm not surprised."