(Reuters and Baltimore Sun…)
WASHINGTON — — By the time Gov. Martin O'Malley left the Democratic convention last fall, he had schmoozed with party leaders from Iowa, spoken to potential donors and hosted swanky parties that kept delegates entertained into the next morning — efforts that heightened speculation about his ambitions beyond Maryland.
But another governor on the short list of potential 2016 presidential candidates, New York's Andrew Cuomo, took an entirely different approach: He arrived in Charlotte two days late, spoke for 20 minutes to his state delegation and went home.
The two Eastern state governors are often mentioned together as potential candidates for president these days.
Both have captured national attention for backing high-profile laws such as the legalization of same-sex marriage and tougher gun regulations. Both represent a new, younger breed of Democratic Party leaders. And the ambitions of both men could be derailed by a bid from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
But when it comes to political style — and how they are handling speculation about whether they will run for president — the two couldn't be further apart.
"Cuomo is far less visible," said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic strategist based in New York. "But Cuomo has a national name. O'Malley doesn't."
O'Malley, 50, appeared on Sunday morning political talk shows 13 times last year as a campaign surrogate for President Barack Obama. Cuomo wasn't booked at all. O'Malley visited early primary states such as Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire, and recently made his third trip to Israel. Cuomo rarely leaves New York.
Cuomo made one of his first overt political moves last month, signing a book deal that publisher HarperCollins promises will provide "a full and frank look at his public and private life." Memoirs have become a required endeavor for most national candidates.
Differences between the governors reflect personal style but also underscore an important political reality. The 55-year-old Cuomo — a Cabinet secretary under President Bill Clinton and the son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo of New York — is better known and can afford to stay quiet for now.
By contrast, if O'Malley wants to keep options open, his best bet is to keep raising his profile.
"He needs to be out there," said John Brabender, who managed former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum's second-place finish in the 2012 GOP primary. "All he can do is move the ball forward every day with the hope that the pathway will open up down the road."
The 2016 Democratic nomination buzz around Cuomo and O'Malley began long before Obama won his second term. But if the election were held today, early polling suggests, both would be crushed by Clinton or Vice President Joe Biden.
Clinton, who has not said whether she will run, captured 65 percent of Democratic voters in a Quinnipiac University poll this month. Biden took 13 percent. Cuomo came in third with 4 percent. O'Malley, capturing 1 percent, tied for fourth with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner.
With Clinton out of the mix, the poll showed Cuomo winning 15 percent and O'Malley taking 3 percent.
A national poll taken four years from an election has limited value, but it does highlight one of O'Malley's challenges. Because Maryland is smaller and less politically prominent than New York, he will have to work harder than Cuomo to introduce himself and to build a fundraising network..
But if Clinton and Biden do sit 2016 out, much of the focus will fall on Cuomo and O'Malley.
O'Malley, who told The Baltimore Sun in April that he is considering a run for president, used his chairmanship of the Democratic Governors Association in 2011 and 2012 to keep his profile high. And he remains the group's finance chairman, which keeps him in contact with a coterie of top donors.
That's smart, several political professionals said, because if Cuomo does enter the race he would be a formidable fundraiser. As home to Wall Street, New York is a magnet for national fundraising. Cuomo has more than $22 million in his state campaign account.
"This guy can raise money," said Douglas Muzzio, a political science professor at Baruch College in New York.
O'Malley had about $60,000 in his main state account and nearly $30,000 in a federal political action committee he created last year.
And that raises another important political difference between the two: Cuomo is up for re-election in 2014. O'Malley, who is nearing the end of his two-term limit, is not.
Democrats who know both O'Malley and Cuomo say the way the two have approached 2016 so far is partly indicative of their personalities. Many consider Cuomo to be more carefully managed and politically hard-nosed.
"Martin is more instantly likable," said Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania and Democratic National Committee chairman. "Andrew is likable when you get to know him, but his manner is not as easy.