Thursday, January 21, 2016

Refelctions on Democratic Candidates: Martin O'Malley

For the final remaining Democratic candidate, Martin O'Malley, I don't think I'm going to really attempt to get too critical. The guy is polling in the low single-digits, so criticizing him now would be like kicking a puppy.

After participating in three presidential debates now, he's really just kind of coming off as a nuisance, trying to get between the two real contenders. He hasn't said anything wrong, though, and he's got some pretty decent ideas. He's just capturing basically nobody's imagination.

So, just who is this Martin O'Malley guy?


To anybody outside the state of Maryland, Martin O'Malley's biggest claim to fame is probably as one of the inspirations of the character Tommy Carcetti from the HBO series The Wire. He's the upstart white politician with the audacity to run for mayor in predominantly black Baltimore. It's a dubious honor to be portrayed Aidan Gillan, best known now for his portrayal of the slimy Master of Coin Petyr Baelish from Game of Thrones, though the Carcetti character was basically a protagonist while Baelish is... not.

Back to reality, though, O'Malley successfully became mayor of Baltimore, holding that position from 1999 to 2007. His modest success at somewhat reducing the city's rising crime-rates and balancing the budget gave him the credentials he needed to run for governor of Maryland in 2007. Due to term limits, as of 2015 O'Malley is out of a job and looking for his next gig. But where do you go after governing a state?

In that sense, seeking the presidency is kind of a no-brainer. With his track record, O'Malley should have been a shoe-in for the presidential nomination. He's got experience at almost every level of government so far, and he's pushing hard to make clean energy a national priority. He's also charming, and he's keeping his head high through this whole primary season despite not seeming to have a chance.

That said, I don't think he minds that he doesn't have a chance. If he was serious about becoming the Democratic nominee he'd probably be cracking under the pressure of hovering around 4% in the polls.

No, I think O'Malley is playing the long game. He's not trying to attack people in the debates--he's finding common ground with both of the other candidates. City Councilman to Mayor to Governor to President is a pretty good career progression, but I think Martin O'Malley is willing to settle for City Councilman to Mayor to Governor to Vice President to President.

If O'Malley becomes VP, then if his President lasts the full 8 years O'Malley will basically be the presumptive Democratic nominee in 2024. He'll officially have some presidential experience, he'll have climbed every other rung of the ladder, and he'll be much better known.

Is that a good strategy? It's certainly not a bad one. Nine of our 43 presidents served as VP before taking office (not counting the ones who simply inherited the office after the death of their predecessor, but counting the ones that inherited and were then re-elected). Al Gore came pretty close to winning in the 2000 election, and don't forget how sad many Democrats were when they heard Joe Biden had decided not to run.

The most common "previous professions" before becoming President are being VP and being a state governor, and if O'Malley becomes VP he will have been both. Given that, I think Martin O'Malley's long game is pretty sound. In that sense, perhaps he really could give Petyr Baelish a run for his money.

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