Gov. Martin O'Malley and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Meet the Press

Gov. Martin O'Malley and House Speaker Newt Gingrich spar on Meet the Press. (Annie Linskey / May 27, 2012)

For close observers of MD Gov. Martin O'Malley, the most interesting part of his 17 minute segment this morning on Meet the Press came at the end.

Host David Gregory revealed there was "a reason" that he asked both O'Malley and Newt Gingrich, a failed presidential candidate, to be guests on the show. Given the "buzz" that O'Malley has his eye on the White House, what advice, Gregory asked, could Gingrich provide Maryland's governor about running for president in 2016?

Gingrich had a snappy reply: "Raise a lot of money." The former House Speaker has $4.8 million in debt from his campaign, according to the Washington Post.

Gingrich also said to expect "two or three years on the road" for a serious presidential run. 

"This has been a brutal, tough process," Gingrich said. "If you are not tough enough to get to the presidency, you are not tough enough to be president."

When the camera turned to O'Malley, the governor demurred. "I haven't even thought that far."

O'Malley, who is also chair of the Democratic Governors Association, said he's "focused" on his current national role. "Doing everything in my power to elect Democratic governors."

Since taking on the top post at the DGA at the end of 2010, O'Malley has become increasingly engaged in national politics. He's crisscrossed the country speaking at state-level Democratic party events (next weekend includes stops in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine) and he's become a regular guest on cable and Sunday political talk shows.

As during other national TV appearances, O'Malley was meticulously prepared. He showed a firm grasp of Mitt Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts -- but also had a handle on the lines of attack Gingrich had used against Romney.

Gregory asked if Obama will come across as "anti-business" by attacking Romney's time at the helm of Bain Capital, a private equity firm. 

"No, I don't believe that," O'Malley said. "I agree with Speaker Gingrich." O'Malley reminded viewers that Romney had initially taken credit for creating "hundreds of thousands of jobs" while at Bain.

"A claim that he eventually backed off of under the Speaker's questioning," O'Malley said.