A group of a dozen Democratic governors set to meet Wednesday in Washington, DC are widely expected to select Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley to be their next leader, a move that would give him a turn under the national spotlight.
The role affords the chair the chance to add top to their Rolodex top Democratic donors from in other states, meet a network of emerging party leaders and recruit new faces. It could also provide a chance to install loyal staffers in key national positions.
"It is an important leadership position," said Nathan Gonzales, the Political Editor with Rothenberg Political Report. "If it is O'Malley it will put him on a larger stage than just being the governor of Maryland."
Others who've chaired the Democratic Governors Association in the past decade entered the mix of possible their party's presidential contenders, including previous chairs New Mexico's Bill Richardson, Iowa's Tom Vilsak and Kansas' Kathleen Sebelius.
This year Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican who chaired the GOP version of the organization kept his name in the national media, gaining stature as top donors entrusted him with their money rather than the scandal plagued Republican National Committee.
But the job does not necessarily translate into national stardom. "You don't get this huge national profile unless you seek it out and work it," said Jennifer Duffy, of the Cook Report.
O'Malley this year gained national prominence for stomping Republican opponent Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a former governor who was at one point was even in the polls. Unofficial results have O'Malley winning by 14.5 percentage points, more than doubling his 2006 victory over Ehrlich in a year where Democrats suffered record losses.
Rick Abbruzzese, an O'Malley spokesman, would not say whether the governor is interested in the position or is actively pursuing it.
But Maryland's Republican party also weighed in, with state GOP chairwoman Audrey Scott issuing a statement Tuesday accusing the governor of pursuing the position to further "his own political aspirations" and predicted that he would be "gallivanting around the country" to raise money for Democrats instead of focusing on the state's fiscal troubles.