"The Democrats have been running the state really incompetently, and it's on display right now," Hough said.

Joe Steffen, a onetime aide to Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and now a political blogger, said that when he heard about O'Malley's suggestion of two special sessions, he "burst out laughing."

"What gets me is Martin O'Malley is not a stupid guy," Steffen said. "The damage he's doing to himself two, three years down the road. ... In one way, I'm like, 'Dude, what are you thinking?'"

Sounding a note of caution was Republican former Del. Donald Murphy of Catonsville. He noted that voters won't get a chance to respond, in the form of legislative elections, for another 21/2 years.

"I'm not sure the average person knows when is session, when is not," he said. "I'm not sure this really matters that much."

Busch said he doesn't think special sessions will weigh heavily on voters' minds by 2014.

"You continue to go about your business, and at the end of four years, you hope they judge you on the body of work you've accomplished," he said. If the economy is in good shape, and if voters perceive that the state has made progress on education and the environment, most Democrats will be in good shape, he said.

But Republicans are seeing opportunity — predicting that the talk of multiple sessions will help them with fundraising and candidate recruitment as well as at the polls in 2014.

O'Donnell, who is running for Congress in the 5th District, was careful to express more dismay on behalf of taxpayers than exuberance over his party's prospects. But he found plenty to smile about in the Democratic disarray.

"When your political opponents are destroying themselves, Rule No. 1 is don't get in the way," he said.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com