Martin O'Malley sticks with Plan A: try to upend Hillary Clinton

Former Governor O'Malley of Maryland announced Tuesday he will not run for Senate, a signal he is still running for president. Clinton's latest woes could give O'Malley hope.

Bruce Smith/AP/File
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks with reporters after addressing a conference hosted by the South Carolina Democratic Party in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Feb. 28, 2015. For more than a year, the former Maryland governor has explored what looks to be a longshot bid for the Democratic Party’s nomination in 2016. On Tuesday, he announced that he will not run for the US Senate, following Sen. Barbra Mikulsi's decision to retire at the end of her term.

Former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) of Maryland isn’t running for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D), who is retiring at the end of her term.

"I am hopeful and confident that very capable public servants with a desire to serve in the Senate will step up as candidates for this important office,” the former governor said Tuesday, in a statement. “I will not be one of them." 

Mr. O’Malley, it appears, is keeping his eyes on the prize: the presidency. O’Malley has been quietly preparing for months to run for president, despite the appearance that Hillary Rodham Clinton has the Democratic nomination all but locked up, without even having announced.

Now, the inevitability argument may be fraying a bit. Mrs. Clinton has faced damaging headlines about foreign government donations to the Clinton family foundation, in apparent violation of ethics rules set up during her tenure as secretary of State. On Monday night, The New York Times reported that Clinton used a personal e-mail account to conduct government business while at the State Department, in possible violation of federal rules on the e-mails of government officials.

Clinton’s small coterie of advisers has had to scramble to address these investigative reports, shining a light on the fact that the presumed candidate, in fact, is not yet fully staffed up for a presidential campaign. According to published reports, she plans to have her campaign in place in a matter of weeks; that means having a rapid response team and prominent surrogates who can respond to allegations.

In the meantime, Clinton is "behind the eight ball" in dealing with negative reports, a former Clinton aide told Politico.

Which brings us back to O’Malley. If he proceeds with a run for the Democratic nomination, he has his work cut out. He is largely unknown outside of Maryland and doesn’t have any of the cachet or cool of a Barack Obama, circa 2007. And he was succeeded by a Republican, now-Gov. Larry Hogan, who beat O’Malley’s lieutenant governor, Anthony Brown, in an upset. 

Still, there is yearning in liberal Democratic circles for an alternative to Clinton, or at least to see a real nomination race and not a coronation. But O’Malley is not Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic firebrand from Massachusetts who is the object of a draft effort. She maintains she’s not running.  

O’Malley continues to travel to early primary and caucus states. Last weekend at an appearance in South Carolina, O’Malley echoed Senator Warren in talking about breaking up large financial institutions, the Associated Press reported.  

"People want to see new faces. There's a certain amount of Clinton fatigue," Dan Calegari, a New Hampshire Democratic activist, told the AP. "They've been around for 30 years now. Quite honestly, I think if Martin decides to get in the race, he will surprise some people."

Another reason for O’Malley to stick with his long-shot presidential race is the veepstakes. If he can build a national profile and do well in debates, perhaps he impresses the eventual Democratic nominee. 

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