Martin O’Malley has been laying the groundwork for a national campaign for quite a while, and over the weekend, the Maryland Democrat made it official over the weekend, announcing his presidential candidacy at an event in Baltimore.
O’Malley, a former two-term Baltimore mayor and former two-term Maryland governor, brings an impressive resume to the table, and as msnbc’s Steve Kornacki explained, he “checks off a lot of boxes for Democrats.”
His gubernatorial record includes the enactment of a state-level Dream Act, strict gun control, gay marriage, and the abolition of the death penalty. So he can – and does – brag that he’s delivered on the party’s agenda in a way that no other would-be Obama successor (or, for that matter, Obama himself) has.He’s also touting a populist economic message that’s very much in sync with the liberal grassroots: hiking the minimum wage, reinstating Glass-Steagall and expanding Social Security.
Indeed, in O’Malley’s kickoff speech, there were was little doubt that he hoped to connect with the “Draft Elizabeth Warren” crowd, calling out Goldman Sachs by name, and blasting Wall Street for its role in the 2008 crash. “Tell me how it is that you can get pulled over for a broken tail light in our country, but if you wreck the nation’s economy you are untouchable,” O’Malley said.
But despite all of this, O’Malley faces extremely long odds, and enters the race with support among Democrats at the national level around 2%. It’s worth appreciating why.
Part of the problem is simply the inherent challenge facing any ambitious Democrat in this cycle: Hillary Clinton is a unique political force who enjoys an overwhelming advantage in her party.
O’Malley is keenly aware of the circumstances, and said in his announcement speech, “[T]he presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you between two royal families.” That’s not a bad line, but O’Malley was an enthusiastic Clinton supporter in 2008 – which is to say, his concerns about political royalty and his rival’s last name are apparently quite new.
Obviously, it’s still very early in the process, and the fact that a former Maryland governor has a low national profile is hardly shocking. His goal at this point is to cultivate support gradually, positioning himself as a credible progressive alternative to the Clinton juggernaut. But even that’s likely to be more difficult than it appears – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) has already taken up residence to Clinton’s left, generating some grassroots excitement for his unapologetic liberal platform.
That doesn’t leave a lot of room for O’Malley, who’ll struggle to raise money from the party’s major donors and endorsements from the party’s establishment, while simultaneously competing with Sanders for support from the liberal activist base.
Making matters just a little worse, O’Malley has a serious “home-state haters” problem. He’s by no means alone – New Jersey voters don’t support Chris Christie’s campaign, for example, and Louisiana voters are even more hostile to Bobby Jindal’s national candidacy – but O’Malley’s support among Maryland voters is surprisingly weak.
Over at FiveThirtyEight, Harry Enten noted over the weekend:
[O’Malley] earned just 3 percent (compared to Clinton’s 63 percent) in a poll of Democratic voters in Maryland conducted in October by The Washington Post and the University of Maryland.If this strikes you as a surprisingly low percentage for a two-term Maryland governor and former mayor of the state’s most populous city, it should. It speaks to the fact that O’Malley was unpopular enough in deep-blue Maryland that by the end of his second term, Republican Larry Hogan came out of nowhere to defeat O’Malley’s lieutenant governor in the 2014 governor’s race.
Sure, 2014 was a pretty good year for Republicans everywhere, but Maryland is one of the nation’s bluest states, and O’Malley’s handpicked successor was considered a heavy favorite – who lost anyway.
Taken together, O’Malley faces a steep climb. He brings a lot to the table – he’s a smart, young, personable progressive, with some meaningful accomplishments – but his odds of success are, at best, remote.