In the rare instance in which Democrats choose to respond to a volley from the other side, it tends to be of the dismissive variety, like a hand lazily swatting at a pesky insect.
So, when the Democratic establishment actually chooses to engage its ideological foes in a substantive manner, it is a noteworthy development.
That’s what happened recently when the O’Malley Administration returned fire on an organization headed by a frequently mentioned possible 2014 candidate for governor.
ChangeMaryland, which bills itself as “the grassroots movement fighting to bring fiscal responsibility and common sense to
was founded and is chaired by Larry Hogan, a fellow veteran of the Ehrlich
The organization, which has over 14,000 followers on Facebook, is a burr in the saddle of the O’Malley Administration, frequently criticizing its policies in the areas of taxation, the budget, and the state’s job growth and retention efforts.
Recently, ChangeMaryland released a study in which it maintains that 31,000 high income citizens disaffected by Governor O’Malley’s tax and spend policies fled the state between 2007 and 2010, taking $1.7 billion in lost tax revenue with them.
Largely ignored by the
ChangeMaryland study did receive coverage in the Washington
Times and by CNBC,
whose story drew a coveted link on the Drudge Report. Maryland
That boomlet of national press attention resulted in this rebuttal, bylined by Governor O’Malley’s Director of Public Affairs Rick Abbruzzese and installed on the governor’s official state blog site.
Abbruzzese’s cites statistics contradicting the IRS data in the ChangeMaryland report. That’s fair game in politics, of course. If one side rolls out statistics, the other side typically responds by producing its own, more favorable numbers. It’s the phenomenon
was complaining about when he railed against, “lies, damned lies, and
But while the reliance on statistics was not surprising, the personal, partisan, and sometimes defensive tone of Abbruzzese’s rebuttal certainly was.
Abbruzzese dismisses Hogan as a “former Ehrlich appointee, failed congressional candidate and failed would-be candidate for Governor,” and ChangeMaryland as a “GOP-led, partisan organization.”
He then explains that the tax hikes passed in 2007 would have solved the state’s budgetary problem as promised, were it not for bogeymen Bob Ehrlich and George W. Bush and the latter's alleged, "reckless spending and tax cuts that overwhelmingly favor the wealthy.”
While I don’t always agree with the things Governor O’Malley does, I think he has some talented political operatives in his orbit – including Abbruzzese. However, statements like these belong more appropriately in a campaign press release than on a state web site.
Meanwhile, Larry Hogan pounced on the gubernatorial slam, writing on Facebook: “Many people are concerned that the Governor used a state website to make highly political, partisan and personal attacks against me and against
's largest non-partisan, grass roots
citizen organization. Apparently his rage at an NBC network story got him to
act inappropriately. It is unfortunate.” Maryland
So, what’s going on here?
With Governor O’Malley’s focus turning to the national stage, his team probably felt that the attention the story had received from CNBC and Drudge obligated them to respond, lest the story of
fleeing millionaires become a permanent part of O’Malley’s future campaign
But, the tone of the piece only blunted its effectiveness. People confronted with two contrary sets of facts will be unsure of which ones to believe. But ladling in the usual attacks only alienates people tired of the shrill, increasingly hostile nature of partisan politics. In effect, O’Malley stepped on his own desired message.
Further, attacks like these only serve to elevate the person being attacked, especially when the attacker is a senior officeholder. This episode reminds me of the incident in which President Lyndon Johnson criticized candidate Richard Nixon as a, “chronic campaigner,” to Nixon’s elation.
Larry Hogan is the only possible GOP candidate for governor in 2014 to have been attacked, indirectly, by the man whose presently has the job. If I were him, I’d be feeling a certain degree of elation, too.