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Monday, August 17, 2015

Candidate Profile (D): #4. Martin O'Malley

For background to this series, click here. Previous posts:

8/15: 5. Lincoln Chafee

Now we get to the candidate who actually inspired a character from The Wire. (I'm not sure that's the kind of free media he wants.) The fourth most likely Democratic nominee is . . .

#4. Martin O'Malley, 52, former Mayor of Baltimore and Governor of Maryland, 1999-2007; 2007-2015

Campaign Website and Slogan--martinomalley.com--"New Leadership"

PPFA Slogan--"No, I'm not Tommy Carcetti"

Educational Background--Bachelors from The Catholic University of America; juris doctor from the University of Maryland School of Law

Ideology on liberal-conservative spectrum (-10 is far left and +10 is far right. A center moderate is 0.): -3 (Individual rights: -6; Domestic: -4; Economic: -3; Foreign policy: +1) Ooh, a + number! Rare for a Democrat. You can thank his apparent desire to expand the military for that. To be honest, though, I just did a sizable Google search for examples of this defense position, and I could find little to support it. Even the national security portion of his campaign "Vision" page exclusively focuses on strengthening the economy. I would expect his score in that category--and the others, for that matter--to move left as the campaign progresses and he makes more policy statements.

Liberal Rank based on above: 5 of 5. Based on this rank, he would seem to be the John Kasich of the Democratic race--that is, the Democrat most palatable to Republicans. However, I think that honor goes to another candidate in our countdown. O'Malley is running like a pretty hardcore liberal, and he must be pretty frustrated that Bernie Sanders is doing it better than he is.

Spin from the candidate's campaign--He's the classic rise-through-the-ranks story. He starts as a lawyer turned city councilman in Baltimore. Then he runs for Mayor in 1999. Wins. In his eight years in office, he cleans up the streets and leads the greatest crime reduction in any of the country's big cities. Thanks to cracking down on crime, he was able to attract important investments into the local economy, which helped bring fiscal stability to schools, which then drew people back to the city and more investments. He won re-election with 87 percent of the vote, a particularly powerful number when one considers he's a lily white Catholic in a majority African-American city. By the end of his mayoral tenure, TIME Magazine named him "one of America’s top five big city mayors."

After his two successful terms, he ran for Governor of Maryland in 2006, challenging the Republican incumbent. Again, he won. During his time as governor, the state won back as many jobs as it lost during the recession, and it was one of only seven states to maintain its AAA bond rating. In 2010, he won re-election by 14 points, and only due to term limits did he just this year stop working for the people of Maryland. He left undefeated in all municipal and state elections.

Throughout his political career, he has been a solid progressive. Under his tenure, the Washington Post named Maryland as one of the top states in holding down the cost of college, and the state was also recognized as having the best public schools in America for an unprecedented five straight years. He's the most vocal and detailed candidate on fighting climate change and promoting renewable energy. As governor, he helped pass marriage equality and abolish the death penalty in Maryland.

So if you're looking for a liberal alternative to Hillary Clinton that doesn't call himself a socialist, if you're looking for a progressive who has gotten things done, take a closer look at Martin O'Malley.

Spin from opponents--From Republicans: At least Bernie Sanders is honest about his socialistic platform. Like Sanders, O'Malley also supports the $15 per hour minimum wage that would drive unemployment through the roof. He already signed a bill that started the escalation of Maryland's minimum wage to $10.10. On immigration, he's probably furthest left of all 22 candidates, wanting to prohibit the deportation or detention of illegal immigrants, give them legal counsel and access to health care, and allow them in-state tuition for college. He also wants college to be debt-free, government investment in narrowing the poverty gap, and the expansion of Social Security beyond its already unsustainable level. The man would explode the size of our government and wreck the economy worse than Obama already has.

From Democrats: If Democrats want to win what will surely be a hard fought election by a desperate GOP, it is essential to keep the Obama coalition together and passionate. But a key portion of that coalition--the African-American constituency--will have problems with an O'Malley nomination. The big reason is that the "tough on crime" history he boasts is not without controversy. On the heels of the Freddie Gray incident in Baltimore, his mayoral tenure and crime policy are getting more scrutiny. As part of a zero tolerance crime policy, he encouraged unpopular "stop and frisk" policies and often did entire police sweeps in black neighborhoods just to increase arrest totals. It'd be specious to claim that these tactics were the reason crime fell in Baltimore; the Washington Post notes that Baltimore's downward trend in crime mirrored that of the nation's. A representative from west Baltimore recently skewered O'Malley's record on crime and black relations, calling him "savagely wrong" on crime. One of the more famous critics of O'Malley's governing is The Wire creator David Simon, who eviscerated O'Malley's fudging of crime statistics and police tactics, saying it drove a wedge between the black community and Baltimore police. (His Mayor Carcetti did the same thing before also running for governor.) It's tactics like these that lead to incidents like those in Ferguson and Baltimore. As the "Black Lives Matter" movement gains steam, Democrats cannot afford to alienate this constituency and need to carry it by nearly as much as Obama did. O'Malley has shown, with his rebuttal that basically amounted to "white lives matter, too," that he just doesn't get it. Any support for him is counterproductive to the Democratic cause, not just by slowing down Clinton's momentum heading into the general fight, but also by inciting a group that has been very loyal to her and, more importantly, the party.

How do the polls look?-- Nationally, he's at 1.8, beating out only #5 Lincoln Chafee. Of the last 16 polls, he hit 3 once, 2 thrice, and the other 11 were Grahamsian 0s and 1s.

In Iowa, he's at a 4.0. That would put him respectably in the top ten in the massive Republican field, but in this tiny Democratic group, he's relegated to looking like a bottom-half candidate. Three candidates tower above him, and one of those hasn't even declared whether he's running. That being said, O'Malley is at least trending up here. He was featured in most 2016 Iowa polls for the last two years, and he only polled between 0 and 2 in them. Since his announcement at the end of May, however, he has grown a bit of support, which is more than can be said of Chafee. He's coming off a stretch of 3, 5, 3, 5, and 7. He's still dwarfed by the Clinton-Sanders rivalry, but at least he's getting some play.

In New Hampshire, however, his 1.5 is even worse than his national average. He had been polling between 1 and 3 until the most recent New Hampshire poll, which had him at 0.

PPFA analysis--Sanders is clearly Clinton's biggest rival according to the polls, and Biden is probably Clinton's actual biggest rival (should he enter), but no Democrat is as aggressive toward Clinton's coronation as Martin O'Malley. Most notably, he's lately attacked the Democratic National Committee for only having six scheduled debates.  "Shame on us," he said, "if the DNC tries to limit debate." He's called it a "grave mistake" and "undemocratic," and says that since the Clintons are the "most prolific fundraisers in the history of representative democracies," it's not fair to the other candidates to have so little free media to get across their message. Spoken like a guy who thinks he can win if he can just get heard.

But can he win? Of course not. He's surely frustrated that all of Elizabeth Warren's liberal support rushed to Bernie Sanders and not himself. The smart play moving forward is to pour everything into Iowa to try stealing a top two finish while Clinton and Sanders split their attention between Iowa and New Hampshire. Beating expectations at the caucuses would then give him some new oxygen for South Carolina and beyond. Perhaps with such a strategy in mind, last week he left for a three-week Iowa tour. Still, it'll be hard to make a run before then. Unlike the diffused Republican race, when a week of good polling can move you from 14th to 8th (as Carly Fiorina has done), it's impossible to build momentum in this small, lopsided Democratic field. The establishment is firmly behind Clinton, the liberal dissent is firmly behind Sanders, and everyone else is waiting for Biden. Even if Biden doesn't run and his potential supporters aren't interested in socialist Sanders or liberal Clinton, O'Malley being ideologically sandwiched between the two is not the way to get votes. No, to have a snowball's chance to win the nomination, it'd be better to have a unique approach. More on that later in the countdown.

PPFA nomination rank--4 of 5 (Odds: 30:1) In a field of five, with one of them being Lincoln Chafee, winning this thing one in thirty times doesn't seem impossible. Still, considering he offers nothing that Sanders and Clinton don't already offer, while they also enjoy lots more money and support, one in thirty is my limit.

PPFA general election rank--3 of 5. If nominated, he'll turn out Democrats while his tough on crime record and sixteen year stretch of executive leadership would alienate fewer non-Democrats than would a self-proclaimed socialist and the political nomad that is Lincoln Chafee. The two ranked ahead of him are for either their gargantuan fundraising abilities or nice crossover appeal.

Check back for #3!

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