When the nation's governors get together for their semi-annual conferences, a few characters always pop out: The media darlings (Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie these days), the flavors of the moment (Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer wields far less power among her home-state Republicans than the attention she gets would suggest), the policy wonks (Several governors led a panel on the future of the National Guard at this year's meeting) and the chairman (Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman has never been so popular).
But the guys who steal the show are invariably the partisans, the two governors tapped to head the Democratic and Republican Governors Associations. They use the annual winter meetings in Washington to sit down with the media and explain just why their party's governors are doing so darn well.
This year, the two heads are almost uniquely qualified to fill their partisan roles and grab the required headlines. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, are widely viewed as rising stars; given their proximity to Washington, they are accessible and well-known to the national political media; they harbor a friendly, and sometimes heated, regional rivalry; and there's a very decent chance that both will eventually wind up on representing their respective sides on a national ticket.