Handicapping the Coming Battle of the ‘Gentry Liberal’ Titans: Cuomo vs. O’Malley

SIn light of Governor O’Malley’s transparent Presidential ambitions, better understanding his campaign strategy helps clarify his current political agenda.

As Herbert Smith, a professor at McDaniel College and coauthor of the book Maryland Politics and Government: Democratic Dominance recently told the Baltimore Business Journal,   “It’s a reach of almost galactic portion to go from a medium-size state to the national scene… It’s a tremendous jump.”

Earlier this week the National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar wrote an unflattering analysis of the possible 2016 Democratic Presidential contest between Andrew Cuomo and Martin O’Malley.  He asked if either Governor was”Ready for Prime Time?” see

Kraushaar comments: “The intensity on gun control is still on the side of the opposition, with only 4% listing it as their most important issue in the latest Gallup survey. More important, defining one’s candidacy by being the biggest gun restrictionist in the field is a surefire strategy for general-election problems in the Rust Belt swing states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Even battleground Colorado, filled with the diverse, well-educated voters that gravitate toward Democrats, is a state where ‘liberal Denver lawyers own handguns, and the Democratic governor takes his son to hunting safety classes,’ as the New York Times put it.”

So what is O’Malley up to?

O’Malley’s political strategists are targeting a single segment of the Democratic primary electorate.  These are what author Joel Kotkin calls “Gentry Liberals.”   Kotkin defines them as combining four basic elements: cultural liberalism, activist environmentalism, fealty the nation’s public employee unions and faith in ‘post-industrial’ capitalism.  Kotkin observes that while Gentry Liberals are only one part of the Democratic coalition, they a nevertheless extremely influential in Democratic Presidential primaries.   However, when this O’Malley strategy conflicts with reaching more traditional working class Democratic voters, the “Gentry” gets preference.

A  Cuomo-O’Malley showdown over the Gentry Liberal primary voter brings to mind the last northern liberal Governor who won his party’s nomination, Michael Dukakis.

Dukakis made a central pillar of his campaign his economic record and the so-called “Massachusetts Miracle.”  Unemployment, which was more than 12% (the highest for any industrial state) when he first took office in 1975, shrank to less than 3% (the lowest of any industrial state).  State and local taxes, which had been the highest per capita of any of the states, were reduced to the eighth lowest.  Ironically his state’s spending and tax reductions were the product of the policies of the Governor who unseated Dukakis in 1978. Nevertheless personal income in Massachusetts has grown faster than in any other state during the 1980′s.

How will Cuomo and O’Malley compete on each of their state’s economic records?

Just over a year ago, Governor Cuomo forged an agreement with the Republican State Senate and the Democratic Assembly on his proposals to cut taxes.  For New York manufacturers, the corporate income tax rate was cut to 6.25%.   Contrast with O’Malley’s tax-raising legacy, including 24 tax and fee hikes since 2007, including raising the corporate income tax from 7% to 8.25%.

Change Maryland’s Larry Hogan points out that New York’s decline of year-over-year manufacturing jobs is 1.4%, which is less than half of Maryland’s decline during the same period. Citing Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, Hogan notes that Maryland has the second-worst decline year-over-year in manufacturing of any state. Maryland’s loss of 4,500 manufacturing jobs, a 4% loss, is eclipsed only by West Virginia which saw a 5.4% decline in the same period. The long-term decline in this sector transcends governors’ administrations.

Since 2002, Maryland has lost 33% of its manufacturing jobs, the sixth-worst decline in the nation. The dismal trend has only worsened since O’Malley became governor. Since 2007, Maryland lost 20% of its manufacturing employment base, the 10th worst decline in the country. Over 26,000 manufacturing jobs vanished during that time.

Not just Maryland manufacturing jobs have been lost thanks to “O’Malley-nomics.”  Thousands of jobs in western Maryland have been prevented as a result of the state’s ban on natural gas exploration fracking.  Marylanders need only look across the border to Pennsylvania to see what might have been.

Maryland voters for Dundalk to Cumberland take heed, Governor O’Malley has given up on your interests in favor of the “wine and cheese” voters of the 2016 Presidential primaries.

Mark Uncapher
Montgomery County Republican Chairman