Martin O'Malley for president in 2016? He drops a few hints.

At a breakfast with reporters Friday, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) insisted it was too soon to talk about 2016. But some comments suggested a run for president might have crossed his mind.

Steve Ruark/AP
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks to reporters on the last day of the state's legislative session on April 9, in Annapolis, Md.

Martin O’Malley is often mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2016, and when asked Friday if he might run, he offered the usual “I’m too busy being governor of Maryland” response.

But Governor O’Malley didn’t rule it out. And when asked whether he’s had any discussion with his family, he allowed that the subject has come up with his two college-age daughters.

“My daughters will e-mail me when they see the honorable mentions with such tremendous leaders as Hillary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo, who’s done an outstanding job in New York, and Vice President Biden, who my daughters just adore,” said O’Malley, speaking at the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way in Washington. “They’ll e-mail me and say, ‘Boy, Dad, it’s nice to be included.’ So there’s that sort of talk.”

O’Malley dropped other hints that suggested the idea of running for president might have crossed his mind.   

“Anything that you hope to do later in public service always depends on your doing a good job at what you’re doing right now,” says O’Malley, who’s in his second term. “And so ... in some ways it’s a simpler time for me, because I know I cannot run again for governor. “

That means no need to carve out time to raise money for a reelection campaign, or pressure from the party to run again and hold the statehouse, he says.

These thoughts about a possible campaign came after he maintained he wasn’t thinking much about running.

“I also am the head of the Democratic Governors Association for the second year, and I suppose for that reason as well as the good job we’ve done in Maryland together over these last few years, people kindly mention me when they talk about what the future of our party holds,” O’Malley said.

“And that’s nice and it’s kind, but I don’t really spend a whole lot of time thinking about it, working on it, or worrying about it,” he continued. “The future – you know, the future will be, and what I’m focused on right now is what I have to do in the present. And that’s plenty for me.”

In the immediate term, O’Malley faces an impasse in his state legislature over a package of tax increases and spending cuts that, if not resolved by July, could result in deep cuts to education spending. Given the large Democratic majorities in the Maryland legislature, the unexpected meltdown was an embarrassment to O’Malley.

But in his conversation Friday with national reporters, O’Malley preferred to focus on the good news coming out of his state. O’Malley is all about metrics, and he came with an armful: Maryland public schools have been named No. 1 in the nation by Education Week magazine four years in a row. Maryland has also gone four straight years without raising tuition in its public universities. Violent crime is down to its lowest levels in 30 years. Over the past year, Maryland has had the ninth-best job-creation rate in the United States. Maryland has the highest median income in the country.

And, as O’Malley announced the day before, Maryland’s blue crab population is at its highest level since 1993 – not the basis for a national campaign, but certainly good news for a state that prides itself on its tasty crustaceans.

O’Malley, who appears often on national TV as a leading Democrat, also differed with President Obama’s emphasis on “fairness” as a campaign message.

“As I talk to people, yeah, they’re bothered by the income disparity as one symptom, but they’re more bothered by the fact that their husband or their wife might lose their job, or that they might no longer have health care, or if they have it, they’re going to have to part with a lot more money,” he said.

Addressing the issues of job loss, home loss, decline in the quality of life, and erosion of incomes is a more persuasive argument, O'Malley says, than the theme of fairness.

But, he added, there is a “positive platform” for Mr. Obama to run on, centered on themes of education, innovation, and rebuilding.

Over and over, O’Malley came back to education as an area where government can build for the future. So here’s an early guess: If he does run in 2016, he’ll pitch himself as the “education president.”

“I think one of the most persuasive points for our own reelection in Maryland among seniors was affordable college,” he said. “Why is that? Because they remember the GI Bill, because they have grandkids, because they know that education is the best indicator of economic security.”

“So,” he concluded, speaking about the Democrats’ overall message this fall, “I think opportunity is what this is going to be about.”


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