Dick Harpootlian, head of South Carolina’s Democratic Party, recalled that the “pleasant reception” O’Malley got at a breakfast with state delegates at the Democratic convention was far tamer than the one they gave Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who “knocked it out of the park.”
“I don’t think anyone came out on fire over Martin O’Malley,” Harpootlian said. “They’re ambivalent, at best. At worst, they don’t know who he is.”
O’Malley’s passion for politics has been obvious since college, when he volunteered for Gary Hart’s 1984 presidential campaign, on through his successful race for the Baltimore City Council in 1991. He was Baltimore’s mayor from 1999 to 2006, when he was elected governor.
Maryland has never been known as a glide path to national office, not unless you count Spiro Agnew, a Republican who in three years went from executive of Baltimore County to governor to vice president, a job from which he resigned in disgrace. O’Malley’s immediate predecessor, Robert Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, practiced law after leaving the governor’s office in Annapolis, Md. Parris Glendening, a Democrat, went to work for a think tank. After he was governor, William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat, became state comptroller.
The talk of O’Malley’s purported presidential ambitions intensified in 2010, when he became chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, a role that allowed him to broaden his focus beyond Maryland, campaigning for Democrats nationwide, meeting major donors and activists, regularly appearing on talk shows and speaking at A-list party functions.
The governor drew attention when he established O’ Say Can You See,a political action committee that can help fund the travel necessary for him to build a national reputation.
Democratic strategists say O’Malley is well positioned to attract primary voters with his advocacy for same-sex marriage and the Dream Act, which extends in-state tuition discounts for undocumented college students. He would run on a record that would also include expanding subsidized health care and continuing to make record investments in education.