Mitt Romney was derided as a “corporate raider” for his tenure at Bain Capital. His job-creation claims as governor of Massachusetts came under fire. And he was mocked for “his ability to take both sides of many controversial issues.”

(Brian Witte/AP)

O’Malley said he came to Myrtle Beach at the request of the Democratic National Committee, which is making a concerted effort to make its presence felt in South Carolina in advance of Saturday’s Republican primary — and seemingly rough up Romney in the process.

O’Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, made several cable television news appearances and conducted one-on-one media interviews from the debate site. And in between, he held court with local TV reporters in a conference room at the Breakers Resort, a beachfront hotel.

“Whether you look at Mitt Romney’s background as a speculator, as a corporate raider or you look at his background as a governor, he has never succeeded in actually creating jobs,” O’Malley told the reporters. “He was good at creating wealth for wealthy investors, but there is no record in Mitt Romney’s background as governor of ever creating jobs.”

O’Malley is expected to spend a significant amount of time as a surrogate for President Obama as the general election nears. And for someone widely thought to have national ambitions of his own, there are obvious upsides to making friends in an early primary state. O’Malley was joined at the Breakers by South Carolina state Rep. Terry Alexander, a Democrat from Florence.

With O’Malley’s budget proposal to the General Assembly due Wednesday, his trip south on Martin Luther King Jr. Day prompted some private grumbling from fellow Democrats back home — and more public criticism from Republicans..

“It increasingly appears this governor is more interested in national politics than solving Maryland’s problems, and that’s unfortunate,” said House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert).

O’Malley brushed off the criticism from those in Annapolis, saying “the budget we’ll present is the culmination of about eight months of work since the General Assembly adjourned in April.”

“I’ll be there bright and early tomorrow,” O’Malley said. “It’s a holiday today.”