Former Governor Martin O'Malley has launched his run for the Presidency in 2016. He has a huge campaign website and everything. And it's not every day that someone from Maryland runs for President? Alan Keyes? Doesn't exactly count. Ben Carson? Probably, right now, has, relatively speaking, more of a shot to win his party's nomination than O'Malley does his.
So, do you all remember President Kennedy? I don't mean JFK, I mean President Ted Kennedy. Because I remember reading a magazine is a kid that predicted that in the 1980 election, Ted Kennedy, Senator from Massachusetts, would beat former Texas Governor John Connally for the Presidency. Oh, and how about President Cuomo, who won the Presidency in 1992? And even in 2012, the Republican Front Runner of the Month phenomenon.
The message here is to be President, you have to run. And therefore it's foolish to question why O'Malley has his hat in the ring. It's the Presidency. Plain and simple. And I write this as a supporter of O'Malley's through his very narrow defeat for the Maryland Senate in 1990, through his elections to City Council and Mayor of Baltimore, to his two elections as Governor. And it was in that second term that I grew less of an O'Malley fan. As in, like the guy, loathe the politician. Did not like that we have two more casinos in Maryland so that he can rake in donations from the gambling industry. Did not like the amoeba that is the 2010 Congressional redistricting map. Did not like his moving away from his career-wide stance of making government more accountable and data-driven in the services it provides. His style of governing became detached and arrogant and it served the state poorly and led the way to the 2014 election in Maryland.
And it's that fizzle that I think O'Malley has to overcome as he begins this quest. Also, the point made in the Post's editorial. He has to portray himself as the candidate who provides the best alternative to Hillary Clinton. And right now that's Bernie Sanders.
How does O'Malley do this? If I were advising his campaign, which I am not, I would borrow heavily from two sources. One, the 1984 campaign of O'Malley's national political mentor, Gary Hart. Hart was able to wedge himself between "establishment candidates" Walter Mondale and John Glenn and did a credible job of finishing second for the nomination while running a campaign of not much substance. That won't work this time-- he's gotta run for something and also, go somewhere his opponents cannot go.
And so that's his second source of imitation. That would be the 1992 campaign of Bill Clinton. Clinton was exactly the Democrat who was needed at the time; pragmatic, centrist, and could appeal to at the time, Generation X. O'Malley needs to become that candidate if he's to have any shot. He needs to connect with Millenials and identify with the things Millenials care about. He needs to activate that generation. And he needs to be the candidate who gets the national zeitgeist. Which will be tough, as the nation is politically so much more polarized than in 1992.
Looking at the "vision" page of his website, he attempts to be going for this approach. But, given his second term fizzle, will he come across as credible and authentic?
And, on yet another hand, there's something else in this too. It's not exactly like Hillary's doing a great job of coming across as a Person of the People. Despite the huge Clinton lead in the polls and in terms of organization, there is an opportunity for another candidate. And all the politicking O'Malley did while Governor of Maryland throughout the country-- especially through that pretty much not good second term-- may turn out to pay off.
My belief is that in the fall, when the candidates for the Democratic nomination face off in debates, we will see what legs the O'Malley candidacy has. But one thing is for sure. The O'Malley who governed in 2010-2014 has no shot. The visionary who became Mayor in Baltimore City and who first won the Governor's Mansion, beating a Republican incumbent-- that guy may have a chance. That guy had energy, belief, confidence, substance. If we see him again, the 2016 race for the Democratic nomination may be mighty interesting.
Let's be careful out there.
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