Until today the choice among those officially in the 2016 race consisted of Bernie Sanders and a ton of conservatives, including Hillary Clinton and the Republican candidates. Martin O’Malley has now officially announced his candidacy adding a second liberal choice:
In the populist speech, he called to mind the “scourge of hopelessness” in Baltimore during the riots, as well as the “conditions of extreme and growing poverty” across the country that he said have put the American dream out of reach for many.
He also called for a crackdown on Wall Street, saying that “recently, the CEO of Goldman Sachs let his employees know that he’d be just fine with either [Jeb] Bush or Clinton. I bet he would.”
“Main Street struggles while Wall Street soars,” O’Malley said. “Tell me how it is that not a single Wall Street CEO was convicted of a crime related to the 2008 economic meltdown. Not. A. Single. One.”
Unlike Hillary Clinton who hides from the press and stands for nothing other than personal greed, Martin O’Malley is spending time with the media and talking about what he believes in. This includes this interview with Politico:
O’Malley says his record proves government can help, not hurt. He’s great at rattling off his “greatest hits”: “We passed the living wage [dramatic increases for employees of government contractors]. We raised the minimum wage to $10.10. We made college more affordable by freezing tuition. We made public schools the best in the country for five years in a row. We made it easier for people to vote and not harder.” The progressive list goes on: passing marriage equality, decriminalizing marijuana, repealing the death penalty.
He’s also building what he describes as a “generational” argument—a euphemism for arguing that the Clintons and the Warrens represent old, tired ways, and he’s the new model for “entrepreneurial, data-driven governance.” “My candidacy would offer something very different than hers [Clinton’s],” he says. “One that is not only progressive but accomplished. … I think the Democratic Party can get very excited talking about the things we need to do, but there’s only one of us [in the race] so far that actually did these things, in city at a very tough time and in a state at a very tough time in our economy.” O’Malley has caught some pundit flak for talking up mayoral achievements like his “48-hour pothole guarantee.” (“This wonk is not about to fire up the party base,” Dana Milbank wrote in March, calling O’Malley the “Bruce Babbitt of 2016,” a guy who’s “campaigning as if he’s running to be Clinton’s EPA administrator or her OMB director.”) But on the other hand, Maryland did earn the highest median household income in the country during his tenure. Or as one of O’Malley’s aides puts it, “If no one is getting their potholes filled, how are we going to get the health care system fixed?
But does he have a chance?
A snapshot of past Democratic insurgencies might also give O’Malley some encouragement. “Look at Memorial Day in 2003, where Howard Dean was in the polls. Or Memorial Day 1991, where Bill Clinton was. Or Memorial Day 2007, look at where Barack Obama was,” says Steve McMahon, a political consultant who worked with Ted Kennedy and Dean. All were way back in the field at this stage, or unnoticed. “Voters are just now starting to tune in a little bit,” says McMahon.
There is also, among Democrats, a time-honored tradition of obscure, long-shot governors rising suddenly (sometimes preceded by dull convention speeches), if not always getting all the way to the White House: Jimmy Carter, Clinton, Dean. “Do you remember Howard Dean in 2001?” says Zephyr Teachout, another progressive firebrand who nearly upended the New York gubernatorial race last year by giving Gov. Andrew Cuomo a scare. “Of course you don’t. No one does. I worked for Howard Dean in 2001. He couldn’t excite a dog then. It wasn’t until he went national as a candidate that he became a rabble-rouser.” And Dean was from Vermont, an even smaller and possibly more liberal state than Maryland. Like many progressives, Teachout is eagerly looking for alternatives to Hillary Clinton and finds O’Malley “interesting.”
There is a difference in this insurgency campaign compared to many of the unsuccessful ones in the past. Hillary Clinton represents both the greatest obstacle and the greatest opening for an insurgency candidacy. On the one hand she has what appears like an overwhelming lead in the polls. On the other hand, we have never encountered a candidate who has so acted so unethically, violating so many of the principles which Democrats claim to hold. It will be a real test as to whether Democrats really mean what they say, or are willing to accept the same types of acts which they condemn from Republicans if someone runs with a D after their name.
Even beyond her major ethical transgressions, Hillary Clinton is out of step with where the country, and the Democratic Party are moving, even beyond the economic issues which O’Malley and Sanders are concentrating on. She has a long history of opposing transparency and attempting to govern in secrecy in an internet age where transparency is becoming the norm. She has aligned herself with the religious right in supporting a greater role for religion in government in a country which is becoming more secular. Her foreign policy views are difficult to differentiate from the neoconservatives. This ranges from being one of the strongest voices in support of the Iraq War, falsely claiming a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda, to supporting greater foreign military intervention during the first four years of the Obama administration. Clinton’s support for the Patriot Act has been criticized by both supporters of Bernie Sanders to her left and Rand Paul to her right.
Martin O’Malley is not as well known nationally as Hillary Clinton, or even Bernie Sanders, but his accomplishments have been noted by liberals for some time. For example, Washington Monthly had an article two years ago entitled Should Martin O’Malley Be President?
As governor, he’s pushed a series of bills that are all but guaranteed to impress Democratic primary and caucus voters three years from now, on topics ranging from guns (against), gay marriage (for), the death penalty (against), medical marijuana (for), and implementing Dream Act-like policies at Maryland’s colleges and universities. Just as Bill Clinton did in the 1980s, when he too was a relative unknown, O’Malley has also sought positions in recent years that have allowed him to sidle into the national limelight. In both 2011 and 2012, he served as chair of the Democratic Governors Association, and he’s since stayed on as the finance chairman, which will allow him to continue to meet top donors. During the election last year, he was a regular fixture on the talk show circuit, often playing the role of President Barack Obama’s personal attack dog. In one interview with ABC’s This Week last summer, O’Malley managed to mention former Governor Mitt Romney’s “Swiss bank accounts” and “offshore” tax havens seventeen times in three minutes flat.
With that iron message discipline, plus his standing as one of the Democrats’ most successful governors (with thirty statehouses in GOP hands, the Dems’ roster is slim), O’Malley won a coveted primetime speaking slot for the second time (he spoke in 2004, too) at the Democratic National Convention last September. He whiffed it—again, just as Clinton did in 1988—but spent the remaining time juggling a packed schedule of schmooze, addressing swing state delegates by day and jamming with his Irish rock band, O’Malley’s March, by night. In recent years, the governor has also made public forays into Iowa and New Hampshire and launched a political action committee, the O’Say Can You See PAC, to raise money that he will be at liberty to distribute, one of his critics groused, “like favor-doing fairy dust,” to fellow Democrats before the midterm races in 2014…
The truth is, what makes O’Malley stand out is not his experience, his gravitas, nor his familiarity to voters (Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden crush him in those regards). Nor is it exactly his policies or speeches (New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, both rumored presidential aspirants, have cultivated similar CVs). Nor is it that he plays in a band. Nor is it even the Atlantic’s breathless claim last year that he has “the best abs” in politics. (Beneath a photo of the fit governor participating in the Maryland Special Olympics’ annual Polar Bear Plunge, the author gushed, “What are they putting in the water in Maryland?”) Instead, what makes O’Malley unique as a politician is precisely the skill that was on display in that windowless conference room in downtown Annapolis: he is arguably the best manager working in government today.
That may not seem like a very flashy title—at first blush, “Best Manager” sounds more like a booby prize than a claim a politician might ride to the White House. But in an era where the very idea of government is under assault, a politician’s capacity to deliver on his or her promises, to actually make the bureaucracy work, is an underappreciated skill.
Of course, it was a conservative president who most recently demonstrated his woeful lack of such expertise (see George W. Bush, administration of), but it is the liberal and progressive bloc that stakes its identity on a belief in government, and therefore has a higher stake in getting government management right.
A writer at The Hill suggested in March that he might be able to pull a Carter and come from nowhere to win the presidency. H.A. Goodman wrote at The Huffington Post Why Martin O’Malley and Elizabeth Warren Can Beat Any Republican, Including Walker, Bush, Paul and Cruz. In April The Guardian asked, Martin O’Malley: If not Hillary Clinton, then how about this guy? H.A Goodman wrote at The Hill Why Americans should consider O’Malley for president pointing out how he is not guilty of the types of ethical violations seen in both Clinton and Jeb Bush:
Compared to ethical scandals by both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, O’Malley was able to move Maryland towards the top of rankings for education, economic mobility, and entrepreneurship. Also, Maryland was one of only seven states to maintain its AAA bond rating during the recession.
As for innovation, O’Malley found ways to utilize data more efficiently than his predecessors. According to a recent Washington Post article, Maryland’s governor found innovative ways to harness data..
Furthermore, he can type an email without controversy. Unlike Hillary Clinton, O’Malley has used technology to help his state, not own a server for some bizarre reason. O’Malley has also made wealth inequality an issue, wants to expand Social Security, enacted Maryland’s version of the Dream Act, raised the minimum wage, and oversaw the passage of marriage equality. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, just recently changed views on marriage equality and has remained quiet on a number of other issues that O’Malley championed in Maryland.
According to The Washington Post in 2007, Jeb Bush’s tenure in Florida was “marred by frequent ethics scandals,” so O’Malley’s track record in Maryland beats (at least in terms of scandal) Bush’s years in Florida. For these reasons and more, O’Malley should be considered by Americans throughout the country as a potential pick for president. Unlike Hillary or Jeb, O’Malley hasn’t been linked to a major controversy and his track record can’t be correlated to any major failure. Martin O’Malley, not Hillary Clinton, should be towards the top of any Democrat’s wish list for president and Americans throughout the nation should pay attention to the former Maryland governor.
While he is officially starting his campaign this weekend, O’Malley has already spent a considerable amount of time in Iowa receiving favorable coverage, including being compared to John F. Kennedy:
O’Malley has the ability to captivate the nation and rise from a relatively unknown to a political juggernaut as John F. Kennedy did in the 1960s, more than 50 interviews with The Daily Iowan show.
“He’s a new breed of Democrats,” Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba, an Obama supporter, said following a private lunch with O’Malley on March 21…
He made a big splash here during his first return to Iowa in 2015, logging nearly 400 miles of travel and appearing at more than a half-dozen events, the Scott County Democrats’s Red, White, and Blue dinner, a Davenport Irish pub, a small town drop-in at Tipton, a visit to Des Moines, and a trendy Council Bluffs eatery.
Presidential historian and political pundit Tom Whalen, who specializes in the tenure and assassination of JFK, said the two have the same charisma, particularly in relation to domestic policies such as income equality.
O’Malley has worked to establish himself as a crisis manager while governor and mayor, as JFK did during the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis, Whalen said.
Whalen said O’Malley leads JFK’s early presidential career in at least one definitive area: speech delivery.
“JFK wasn’t really JFK until he gave that famous inaugural speech,” he said.
As of March O’Malley had been interviewed by The Daily Iowan alone fifty times, granting far more interviews than the number of questions answered by Hillary Clinton this year. He speaks to actual Iowans, not hand picked supporters for staged events like Clinton. These things could matter in states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Sure O’Malley is far behind in the polls, but the contrast between Hillary Clinton and far more honest and open opponents such as O’Malley and Sanders could change the race over time–and there is still a long way to go until the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.