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Gov. Martin O'Malley steps forward at Democratic National Convention

By Julie Baughman, Capital News Service

8:47 PM EDT, September 5, 2012

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley used his prime-time slot at the Democratic National Convention Tuesday to make the case for Obama's record on jobs and the economy.

The president “is moving America forward, not back,” O'Malley repeated, hammering home the Obama campaign's slogan. Five times, he encouraged the crowd to chant along with him and wave their “Forward. Not Back” signs in unison.

“Democratic governors, with the support of our president, are leading their states forward -- putting job creation first, balancing budgets, protecting priorities, making the tough decisions, right now, to create jobs and expand opportunity,” O'Malley said. “Together with President Obama, we are moving America forward, not back.”

No other governors are scheduled to speak in primetime, providing Maryland delegates a rare chance to cheer on their home-state governor at the convention.

O'Malley took the fight directly to the Republicans, too, saying, “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan now say they want to take America back. And so we ask: Back to what? Back to the failed policies that drove us into a deep recession?... No thank you. I don't want to go back.”

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said O'Malley did exactly what he needed to do in order to set the stage for the election.

“I thought Governor O'Malley set the right tone and he made it clear that this election is about choice,” Brown said.

Brown also was pleased O'Malley highlighted Maryland's successes in the speech and their importance in relation to the national campaign.

“I think there's a very clear contrast. The governor appropriately pointed to successes in Maryland which are based in large part on what the president has been doing on a national level,” Brown said.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also lauded O'Malley's performance and was impressed with his passion and energy.

“He had a lot of positive energy. You can tell from being here that the entire area was engaged and hanging on his words,” Rawlings-Blake said. “There's a lot of energy and excitement, much more than at the Republican Convention because we know what's at stake.”

Yvette Lewis, chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party, said she was proud of her governor. Lewis said she was so overwhelmed at one point that she couldn't even speak anymore.

“I couldn't even cheer,” Lewis said. “I just wanted to sit there and absorb it.”

O'Malley's speech came after a long day with a packed schedule.

He began the morning by leading the Maryland delegation in the now iconic “Fired up! Ready to go!” chant, popularized by President Barack Obama during his 2008 campaign, and giving a short speech Tuesday morning at a breakfast hosted by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

Tuesday was O'Malley day at the Democratic National Convention -- he gave a high-profile convention speech, roused the Maryland delegation, spoke briefly on the floor as a Rules Committee co-chairman and spoke on behalf of his home state at the Democratic Governor's Association panel on the economy.

Delegates took O'Malley's role as a mark of pride for the state.

“We're honored,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “I think Martin O'Malley is emerging as a great national leader.”

Shortly after breakfast, O'Malley arrived in the Google tent in uptown Charlotte to participate in the “Growing Our Economy and Investing in Infrastructure” panel featuring other notable participants, including Coca-Cola Co. President and CEO Steve Cahillane, Microsoft Vice President U.S. Public Sector Curt Kolcun and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

The group discussed the importance of spending, job creation and investment in infrastructure in growing our economy, a recurring theme in O'Malley's comments throughout the day.

That afternoon, O'Malley helped the Maryland delegation honor Sargent Shriver, who ran on George McGovern's 1972 ticket, at the Mint Museum in downtown Charlotte before preparing for the night's opening convention session.

When asked what Obama needs to do in order to clinch the election win, O'Malley reverted to his stance on the importance of employment.

“Job growth will help us bring down our deficit, job growth will help us feed our children, job growth is what makes us strong as a country and allows us to educate higher and better levels of every generation,” he said.

O'Malley was modest about his not-so-modest role in the convention this week and said he was here solely to support Obama and ensure his re-election. However, political observers say O'Malley may have his eyes on the 2016 presidential race.

“I'm all about the president,” O'Malley said. “This is not the Martin O”Malley story, nor frankly, is it the Maryland story. This is about President Obama and the better choices he's making, the choices that are moving us forward.”

Salisbury Mayor and convention delegate James Ireton echoed this sentiment.

“The governor is so squarely focused on where he's going to take the state. He's so squarely focused on working with congressional delegation, with president Obama, with the cabinet secretaries, on moving us forward.”

Kamenetz thinks that, although O'Malley is focused on President Obama, he has to be doing some networking this week.

“I know that Governor O'Malley is here to support President Obama and to ensure President Obama's re-election but at the same time I know Governor O'Malley is going to utilize the opportunities to continue his outreach to different states and to the delegations here,” Kamenetz said. “Frankly he's the future of our party, and why not showcase people like that? That's very important for the national audience to get another taste of him.”