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Martin O’Malley’s early bird strategy

Updated

The day before Hillary Clinton gives her own speech on Wall Street reform, her Democratic rival Martin O’Malley came to a liberal think tank in Washington to make sure he got his own ideas on the issue out ahead of her. 

O’Malley already released his detailed Wall Street reform plan earlier this month in a lengthy white paper (which was somewhat overshadowed by an embarrassing footnoting issue), but at the Truman National Security Project Thursday he reminded anyone who would listen that who had a Wall Street plan first. 

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Speaking with former Democratic Rep. Brad Miller, who was a leading financial reform advocate in Congress, O’Malley said he didn’t think “anyone could credibly run for president without offering a framework for how it is that we deliver on Wall Street reform.” And he challenged candidates to put out a plan as robust as his own. 

It’s the latest example of O’Malley’s gamble that the early bird really will catch the worm. The former Maryland governor has been rolling out ambitious proposals at a feverish pitch, often before his challengers, and is hoping that voters reward him for being the first to stake flags on virtually any policy one can think of. 

He put out comprehensive plans on Wall Street reform, debt-free college, climate change, immigration reform and other issues, and was the first Democrat to give a traditional speech on his foreign policy vision. Even on lower-profile issues, like Puerto Rico’s debt crisis or the deportation of Haitians from the Dominican Republic, O’Malley has jumped to be first mover in the field. 

Acting first, he hopes, will make him a leader in the pack. When other candidates speak out on the same issue days or weeks later, O’Malley’s campaign is eager and aggressive to remind reporters who got there first. The strategy assumes that voters will reward O’Malley for being the early bird, though so far there’s little evidence of that as he continues to be stymied in the single digits of early state polls.

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However, he has earned some recognition from activists. “Martin O’Malley was the first candidate to make criminal prosecution of Wall Street bankers a 2016 issue – and it’s been great to see a race to the top with Clinton and Sanders making bold statements in favor of accountability for bankers who break the law,” said Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

And the early bird strategy may also be the only card he can play, as he acknowledged Thursday. Asked by msnbc why he thinks it’s so important to be first, he said he believes campaigns are about ideas and that he wants to offer “a candidacy that’s worthy.”

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But then he smiled, and added, “And the good news is that’s also my only path to victory.”

His latest attempt to lead the field was on Wall Street reform ideas “any democratic candidate running for president” should embrace. 

O’Malley emphasized Glass–Steagall, the Depression-era financial reform legislation that separated commercial and investment banks, which was repealed under President Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton has so far declined to take a position on reinstating the measure.

The former governor also called for ending the “revolving door” between banks and government, saying he would only appoint officials “who were not in the initial deregulation effort,” much of which occurred under Clinton’s husband. 

O’Malley did not come up with these ideas, but rather embraced ones put forward by the financial reform movement. “I think he made very thoughtful proposals that a lot of other reformers have supported in the past,” Miller told msnbc after the event

But if Clinton mentions any of them in her speech Friday, you can count on O’Malley’s campaign to remind you who said it first.

Financial Reform, Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley

Martin O'Malley's early bird strategy

Updated