Is Marriage Equality Pioneer Martin O'Malley The Anti-Hillary Candidate for President?
Touting his accomplishments on behalf of the LGBT community, Martin O’Malley entered the race for the White House today, already far behind. But the former Maryland governor and mayor of Baltimore betrayed no hint that his long-shot status would derail his ambitions.
A hiccup that silenced a big-screen campaign video, intended to introduce O’Malley, was the only glitch in today’s announcement
. The candidate wore a bright blue striped tie and ditched the suit jacket as he led his family to the stage, with a recording of Bruce Springsteen’s “Land of Broken Dreams” playing on loudspeakers.
“Today, the American dream seems for so many of us to be hanging by a thread,” said the 52-year-old, in formally announcing his candidacy in Federal Hill Park in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
“This is not the American dream,” he added. “It does not have to be this way. This generation of Americans still has time to become great. We must save our country now. And we will do that by rebuilding the dream.”
With the towers of the city’s downtown and a diverse crowd of supporters standing behind him, and hundreds more before him, O’Malley appealed to democrats to back him instead of front-runner Hillary Clinton, or Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Sanders’ candidacy has captured the attention of progressives as an authentic populist and an early alternative to Clinton. It is to them, O’Malley made his case.
Reading from his notes and not from a teleprompter, O’Malley sounded populist notes of his own, and invoked that well-known name among rock music fans, whose music brought him to the stage.
“The poet laureate of the American dream, Bruce Springsteen, once asked: ‘Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?’”
Speaking of what it will take to rebuild that American dream, he said: “All of us are included. Women and men, black people and white people, native Americans, Irish-Amercans, Asian-Amercans, Latino-Amercans, Jewish, Christian and Muslim-Amercans, young and old, rich and poor, workers and business owners, gay, lesbian and transgender and straight Americans, all of us are needed.”
His schedule shows him hitting the road for a two-day swing through Iowa and New Hampshire. But before he made today’s announcement, O’Malley reportedly phoned Clinton, his longtime ally, to inform her of his plans personally, according to a report in Time.
"My decision is made," O'Malley said, barely breaking a sweat as the Baltimore sun beat down. "Today, to you — and to all who can hear my voice — I declare that I am a candidate for President of the United States.
“Pride (In the Name of Love),” a 1984 hit song by U2, blasted from the speakers, as O’Malley and his family waved and shook the hands of supporters.
O’Malley’s speech highlighted his record in Annapolis and legislative victories, including minimum wage laws and laws in support of LGBT rights.
In 2012, he signed a bill legalizing same sex marriage
in Maryland, joining seven other states in enacting marriage equality. The law survived a statewide referendum held later that year, which marked the first time marriage rights in the U.S. were extended to same-sex couples by a popular vote.
In May 2014, he signed into law the Fairness for All Marylanders Act,
extending housing, public accommodations, and employment protections to transgender citizens and visitors of the state.
"We are closer today to creating an open, respectful, inclusive world that we want for all of our children," O'Malley said prior to signing that bill. "This bill gives us another step closer to that vision and to that reality."
O’Malley today also reflected on what he called the “heartbreaking” riots that engulfed Baltimore earlier this month, as representative of the problems he is running to solve.
“The scourge of hopelessness that happened to ignite here that evening transcends race, it transcends geography. Witness the countless number of young white kids, killing themselves on heroin in suburbs and small towns across our country. The hard truth and shared reality is this: unemployment in many cities and many small towns across the United States of America is higher than it was eight years ago,” when O’Malley ended his tenure as Baltimore’s mayor
“Conditions of extreme poverty breed conditions of extreme violence. We have work to do,” he said. “Our economic and political system is upside down and backwards and it is time to turn it around.”
Pollsters are not convinced populist speeches like today’s will resonate with primary voters. Still, O’Malley’s team believes he fills a natural void, and Clinton’s team acknowledged to The New York Times
that a significant portion of the primary electorate is likely to favor someone else.
Stuart Rothenberg, publisher of the non-partisan Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report, told The Times: "The only way he's going to have a path, is if she stumbles. Right now, it's not about O'Malley and I don't believe it ever will be about O'Malley."
Maryland has never produced a president. But in telling the crowd today he is running, O’Malley raised his voice as he shouted, “I’ve got news for the bullies of Wall Street: the presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you between two royal families. It is a sacred trust to be earned from the American people.”
The New York Times portrayed O’Malley as a scrappy underdog who takes to tough political fights. He staked out early ground on an immigration overhaul in 2014, accusing the Obama administration of heartlessness in deporting children who had crossed the border from Mexico.
“Here you’ve got a clear generational divide, and a lot of Americans think about that,” said Gary Hart, a former Colorado senator and Democratic presidential candidate, and according to Time
, a supporter of O’Malley who benefited from a young O’Malley’s help in his failed 1984 campaign. “They are less inclined to divide themselves in the world between ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives,’ and more between the past and the future.”
That, Hart told The Times, would give O’Malley an advantage. And it is Hart’s come-from-behind candidacy in the ’84 Democratic primaries, which ultimately fell short, that The Times said has helped inform O’Malley’s thinking about his own race.
In the days leading up to today’s announcement, The Times reported his advisers and allies shaped the race with generational contours, although aides to O’Malley insist they're not playing up the generation gap between Clinton, 67, and O'Malley, 52.
The contrast has been unmistakable, though: In a YouTube video
hinting at his love of playing guitar, O’Malley is seen plucking the tune of “Hail to the Chief” with the camera focused on his hands. And his aides have repeatedly used the word “old” — as in “old guard” or “old way of thinking” — in veiled references to Clinton, something that has not been lost on her allies.
O’Malley’s team is still in the formation stage: he has three deputy campaign managers, including Lis Smith, who has handled his communications for several years. His top consultant is Bill Hyers, who managed Bill de Blasio’s victory in the 2013 New York City mayor’s race.
But he still had not announced a campaign manager when he took the stage today.
reported O’Malley is polling at 1% among Democrats compared with Hillary Clinton’s 57%, according to a May 28 Quinnipiac survey, despite his frequent trips to Iowa and New Hampshire. His allies have launched a super PAC called Generation Forward that will support his campaign in early nominating states.
WATCH the campaign announcement event as it happened, courtesy of C-SPAN: