CHARLOTTE -- Despite widespread speculation about his own national political ambitions, Gov. Martin O'Malley continued to deflect questions about 2016 as he dashed through a packed schedule at the Democratic National Convention ahead of his prime time address on Tuesday.
The careful approach to talk of O'Malley as a presidential candidate -- which has made the governor a top draw here -- comes after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was criticized by some for focusing too much on himself at last week's Republican convention, rather than on nominee Mitt Romney. It is also consistent with how O'Malley has handled those questions for months.
"This is not a time to tell the Martin O'Malley story, this is the time to tell the Barack Obama story," O'Malley said shortly after addressing the Maryland delegation's daily breakfast meeting. "This is the time to talk about the better choices we're making."
Still, O'Malley, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, is doing little to put the brakes on in Charlotte. After addressing his home state's delegates, he was scheduled to speak at a closed event organized by AIPAC, a lobbying group that advocates pro-Israeli policies. He will then speak on a DGA panel on "growing our economy and investing in our infrastructure." He addresses the convention Tuesday at 10 p.m., just as the national networks begin broadcasting live.
The governor is also speaking to the delegations of Ohio and Iowa this week, both important states for presidential campaigns.
As O'Malley works the convention here, Republicans in Maryland have been criticizing his policies back home. Larry Hogan, chairman of the conservative group Change Maryland, has tried to highlight recent tax increases supported by O'Malley in the legislature, including higher income tax rates on filers making more than $100,000 and families earning more than $150,000.
In a statement, Hogan said there is a "pattern of deception from the governor."
And some of those questions are following O'Malley to the convention. He has repeatedly been asked about the state's tax increases by national media -- another indication that that part of his record in Maryland will be closely scrutinized if he runs for higher office in four years.
"That's where leadership comes in," O'Malley said when asked about the negative response increasing taxes draws from members of both political parties, "or instead we can elect leaders who tell us we can eat cake and lose weight, that everything's a free lunch, that because your parents won the Second World War that you don't have to do anything anymore to make America better.
"You want to live in the greatest country in the world or do you want to pass out the JV jerseys?"