Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has formed a federal political action committee, laying the foundation for a potential presidential run in 2016.

Though O'Malley aides say the PAC was opened to raise money for voter referendums this fall on gay marriage and reduced tuition rates for illegal immigrants, the group also could aid the Democratic governor in forming the type of financial network necessary for a White House bid.

In addition to heading the Democratic Governors Association, O'Malley has stepped up his national profile, becoming a regular on the Sunday talk-show circuit -- and a punching bag for Republicans for his willingness to lambast GOP politicians.

Armed with his PAC -- O' Say Can You See -- O'Malley can contribute to prominent liberal candidates on the national political landscape, who in turn, could fill O'Malley's campaign coffers were he to seek national office.

Roll Call first reported that O'Malley had started the PAC, which is named for the first line of "The Star-Spangled Banner," written at Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812.

In the short-term, O'Malley's political brand is largely tied to his ability to preserve new laws popular within Democratic circles but that could be overturned by voters in November.

Reflected by a string of poor jobs reports, the Maryland economy has sputtered in recent months. But O'Malley remains popular with Democratic voters, due largely to the passing of same-sex marriage and Maryland's version of the Dream Act.

Republicans mobilized en masse against those measures, and many expect the referendums on the pair of laws to be closely contested. O'Malley is banking that the financial prowess of his PAC and other liberal advocacy groups will preserve the laws in the liberal bastion.

With the additional national spotlight, O'Malley is looking to pad his political legacy before the end of his second term as governor in 2014. Unlike New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also a possible 2016 presidential candidate, O'Malley has shown little hesitation to embrace a bigger political stage.

That flurry of activity could help enhance his name recognition and ultimately convince Democrats to contribute to his nascent PAC.