Tuesday, February 23, 2016

2020 Vision For O'Malley?

When Martin O'Malley withdrew as a presidential candidate for 2016 after the Iowa caucuses, many of those of us who supported him hoped - and still do - that he would run again in 2020.  We placed our hopes in 2020, not 2024, because we were - and in many cases, still are - convinced he was the only Democrat with a realistic chance of winning the Presidency in November.
Ironically, his chances of gaining the Democratic presidential nomination in the future may be realistically slim.  
First, there's the experience issue.  O'Malley does indeed have an impressive record as a former mayor of Baltimore and, more specifically, as a former governor of Maryland.  But several incumbent and former (mostly former) Democratic governors have records comparable to that of O'Malley, and many of them have already run for President, one after another, with limited success.  For every Reubin Askew (Florida) that hasn't made it, there's been a Michael  Dukakis (Massachusetts)  ready to try next time.  (Bill Clinton, a sitting governor of Arkansas, finally got it in 1992 after Dukakis.)  If the Republicans win the White House in 2016, another Democrat who's been a governor, maybe Andrew Cuomo of New York, may be a front-runner for 2020.  That is, if there's a Democratic Party by then.
Second, as I noted in an earlier post, while O'Malley is a likable guy and an eager campaigner,  many Democratic voters found him to be a colorless technocrat; many voters wanted someone who offered something more than capable administrative skills, and too many of them found little more than that in O'Malley.  If he didn't connect with voters in Iowa or New Hampshire (and he didn't even make it to New Hampshire) in 2016, how can he catch fire in four or eight years? Also, if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders loses in November, his third-place finish in a six-person Democratic presidential nomination contest where the bottom three candidates quit in 2015 is hardly cause for anointing him a front-runner for the next go-around.
Third, there's the increasing diversity of the Democratic Party, as well as that of the country, to contend with.  O'Malley may have visited mosques and campaigned for Hispanic immigrant rights to show his solidarity with the new Democratic constituency and his embracing of diversity, but to many voters he still seemed like just another old-school Irish pol.  Also, his standing among blacks - still the backbone of the Democratic coalition - has faltered since the Freddie Gray incident in Baltimore.  Although O'Malley had nothing to do with Gray's death, having been out of office as mayor of Baltimore for eight years, his critics successfully portrayed him as a villain for championing the tough criminal-justice policies that they say led to Gray's death.  I know Hillary Clinton also championed tough criminal justice, but her position in the Democratic Party as a woman and as a member of the most revered Democratic dynasty since the Kennedys have largely insulated her from such criticisms, which could have theoretically cost her black support.
But the two biggest arguments against a 2020 O'Malley presidential campaign, or even a 2024 O'Malley presidential campaign, are these; the few Democrats who try again for their party's presidential nomination still don't make it to the White House (remember President Kucinich?), and O'Malley comes from Maryland, a solidly Democratic but small state that is of little consequence to anyone in national politics.  (Don't ask me how Bill Clinton made it out of once-Democratic Arkansas.)       
Oh yeah, one other thing - maintaining viability and visibility between now and the next presidential election or the one after.  How does O'Malley do that as a private citizen?  How does he keep himself in the eye of a media establishment that never had its eye on him in the first place?  O'Malley said he would continue to fight for his progressive values.  How?
O'Malley's first public appearance after ending his presidential campaign is a scheduled performance with his Irish rock band in March for St. Patrick's Day.  And I'm sure the press will joke that his choice of musical style is as relevant as his political career. :-(    
By the way, I'm sure that more people would have warmed to Martin O'Malley or found his record more competent than inspiring, if more people had gotten to know him. But - I cannot emphasize this enough - the success that Debbie Wasserman Schultz and a pro-Hillary media elite had in making sure that few people would even hear of him seems to have ensured that he'll never be heard from again. And once again, I won't forget this. :-(

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