The PJ Tatler

Maryland's Governor O'Malley Mulls a Challenge to Hillary in 2016

We may be three years and three months out from the 2016 presidential election, but there is one Democratic candidate perfectly willing to talk about his thought processes in entering the race.

Maryland’s liberal Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley was unusually candid in discussing his plans with reporters, as he gave some insight into the kinds of factors he was weighing in making a decision to enter the race.


“I have been taking more time to let my soul catch up with where my body’s been, to slow down a little bit and spend more time thinking and writing and reading and spending some time with my kids,” he said toward the end of a 35-minute conversation. “Just doing that important work that a human being has to do to be centered and present and make a rational decision on something this big and to do it for the right reason and in the right way. So I’m doing all of those things.”

O’Malley, who said the Democratic Party has not “done a good enough job selling our accomplishments,” connected his 2016 deliberations to a broader concern about the direction of the country.

“You still see a lot of angst and anxiety for the vast majority of people who are working hard every day and seeing their buying power go flat and even decline,” he said. “We’re going through this crisis of confidence, and great republics sometimes go through these periods. Individuals call them the dark night of the soul.

“We’re going through a period of time of confusion and a time of polarization and a real crisis of whether or not we’re still capable as a people of accomplishing big and important things, none more important than restoring the balance to our economy so that our middle class can continue to grow and give more opportunities to each successive generation.

“We will get through that period, of that I have no doubt, but I don’t think we’ll get through that period by 2014. So you’re going to have this debate rage in all the states and among 36 governors as to whose theory works.”

“It’s probably going to continue … for a couple more cycles,” he added.

The governor praised three books he’s recently read as part of the presidential deliberation: Richard Haass’ “Foreign Policy Begins At Home: The Case for Putting America’s House in Order”; Eric Liu’s “The Gardens of Democracy”; and Parker Palmer’s “Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit.”

O’Malley has been praised by the left for his aggressive stance on climate change, as well as new gun control laws he rammed through the Maryland legislature in the wake of the Newtown shootings.

But where does he differ substantively from Hillary Clinton? Perhaps in tone and tenor, but not so much on the issues. He may offer a more robust critique of the Obama years than Hillary might, but on the important liberal issues, he will be a pale echo of Obama and Clinton.

Why run for president? Hillary might falter, or become embroiled in a scandal. And there are still a lot of Democrats who can’t stand Hillary and would never vote for her. The far left is especially disappointed in her and O’Malley would be an agreeable alternative.

Still, it’s hard to see how the Democrats can deny Clinton the nomination if she runs. The prospect of electing the first female president would probably override many doubts about her ideological soundness, while animating women activists.

If O’Malley runs, he probably won’t offer much of a challenge to the former secretary of state.