Political Commentary by Barry Rascovar for MarylandReporter.com
Caricature of Rick Perry by artist DonkeyHotey via Flickr.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is poaching in Maryland. Hes camouflaged his Wednesday visit as an economic development pitch including a $500,000 TV and radio ad blitz to get companies to move from Maryland to low-tax, pro-business Texas.
Hes not fooling anyone.
Its all part of Perrys nascent presidential campaign for 2016. His move-to-Texas gambit comes with plenty of media coverage and new fund-raising contacts. Hes done it in other states that just happen to have important primaries like California, New York, Illinois, Missouri and Connecticut, where Perry needs to connect with Republican voters well before the 2016 GOP primary heats up.
Its a brash, aggressive move that underlines Perrys macho reputation for sweeping aside political niceties.
Maryland ideal for Perry visit
Maryland is an ideal state for Perry to visit, which is ironic considering the states overwhelming Democratic tendencies.
By hammering hard in the ads at Marylands job killer tax increases and the states anti-business reputation, Perry sparked a sharp response from Democratic Gov. Martin OMalley, who shares Perrys presidential ambitions.
All hat and no cattle, quipped the Maryland governor. (Thats a Western and Midwestern expression for folks who wear cowboy hats but have never worked a farm.)
You can expect lots of similar zingers from OMalley this week and perhaps a mano a mano meeting with the Austin poacher. The Baltimore and Washington media will eat it up. Thats precisely what Perry wants.
The two governors are ideological poles apart on issues and philosophy. Its OMalleys strident New Deal liberalism versus Perrys strident right-of-Reagan conservatism.
Both pols want the combat
A war of words is the script both politicians desire. The more media coverage this visit generates, the more Perry and OMalley grab much-needed visibility.
Its true that Texas has a warm and cozy relationship with its business community. You dont see Texas leaders bashing businesses. OMalley, though, has resorted to angry denunciations of corporations to emphasize his dedication to working men and women. Any time OMalley needs a scapegoat, he lobs a verbal grenade in the direction of Corporate America.
Thats why OMalley will have a hard time disputing Perrys statement that Maryland has a negative reputation with the business community. A CNBC survey this summer placed the Free State near the bottom when it comes to its business climate. (Texas ranked No. 2. Maryland was No. 40)
Caricature of Martin OMalley by artist DonkeyHotey via Flickr.
The fact that OMalleys hostile comments and actions drag down Marylands efforts to recruit new companies and jobs is of scant concern to the governor. State corporate leaders are not fond of the governors policies, but they have to cooperate. As Maryland governor, OMalley holds all the high cards.
OMalley is most vulnerable on the 40 times hes raised taxes or fees while in office. Many of those increases socked it to the business community.
In sharp contrast, Texas has a sterling reputation for keeping corporate taxes low and companies happy.
Historically, the Lone Star State has limited government intrusions. The opposite is the case in Maryland.
Down With Washington!
While OMalley yearns for a return to the days of FDR and LBJ when liberalism dominated Washingtons power centers, Perry expresses disdain for virtually everything related to the nations capital.
In his 2012 campaign book, On Fire! Our Fight to Save America from Washington, Perry calls Social Security unconstitutional, Medicare too expensive, banking laws unnecessary, consumer protection unneeded and federal education policy illegal.
Hes an unabashed Tea Party conservative who comes close to mouthing the words from that movie classic, Network: Im mad as hell and Im not going to take it anymore!
Maryland: The Tax and Fee State
For OMalley, his spat with Perry indicates what hell face as a national campaigner. His record on taxes is unprecedented in Maryland history.
It is true that many of those tax levies were needed to help state and local governments weather the Great Recession, but this subtle distinction is lost on a public that only reads headlines, not the fine print below.
And while Marylands governor can point to high-achieving schools, low-tuition state colleges and a green environmental record, his critics need only point to all those increased taxes and the frightening violence and murder rate in the states largest city.
Benefitting from Texas fracking boom
Perrys situation is quite different.
Hes been governor of Texas for 13 years and that states economy is charging ahead, thanks in large measure to the oil and gas fracking boom.
He can brag about keeping taxes down and free enterprise free of government entanglements. He also can draw cheers from conservative crowds by denouncing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as un-American. (He skips over Texas abysmal record in helping the poor.)
By starting his presidential campaign early, Perry hopes to gain far more name recognition across the country than in 2012. Hell be better organized this time, too.
Yet hes still a longshot, as is OMalley.
In that regard they are much alike two ambitious governors nearing the end of their terms with nothing better to do than reach for the brass ring that might lead to a presidential showdown.
Rascovar has been reporting and commenting on Maryland and national politics and government since 1971, first for the Baltimore Sun, then the Gazette of Politics and Business and The Community Times. We are publishing his columns simultaneously with his own blog, PoliticalMaryland.com.