Possible Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley took a swipe at Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday. Maybe – it’s kind of hard to tell whether he’s decided to go on offense, or is just sparring with the woman who’s likely to crush him in primaries in 2016.
Speaking to reporters at Harvard University following a speech, Mr. O’Malley criticized Mrs. Clinton for changing her views about same-sex marriage and immigration.
“I’m glad Secretary Clinton’s come around to the right position on these issues,” said O’Malley, according to Talking Points Memo. “I believe that we are best as a party when we lead with our principles and not according to the polls.”
Clinton now says she supports a federal right to same-sex marriage. Back in 2004, she said that was an issue best left to the states’ discretion. She also now says she’d allow undocumented workers to get driver's licenses, something she opposed in her last (losing) presidential campaign.
As Maryland governor, O’Malley signed into law bills allowing same-sex marriage and undocumented immigrant driver licenses.
“Leadership is about making the right decision and the best decision before sometimes it becomes entirely popular,” said O’Malley.
Progressives on the left side of the Democratic Party welcomed O’Malley’s jab as a reminder to not take their votes for granted. They keep talking about a more liberal challenger to Clinton – perhaps O’Malley will indeed fill that role.
Conservatives were glad a possible primary rival finally depicted Clinton as a flip-flopper. Mitt Romney endured numerous such attacks in 2012, and it hurt him, writes Noah Rothman today at the right-leaning Hot Air site.
“More than a handful of political analysts have dubbed Hillary Clinton the Democratic Party’s Mitt Romney,” writes Mr. Rothman.
But did O’Malley actually intend to inflict political damage? We think not.
After all, O’Malley’s phrasing there isn’t exactly stinging. Contrast it with the words of another likely 2016 Democratic candidate, the currently-Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. On MSNBC earlier this week, Senator Sanders said nobody knows what Clinton’s campaign message is.
“You don’t know and I don’t know and the American people don’t know,” he said.
Plus, how ferocious is it to point out that Clinton, on a key issue, has taken a position consistent with public opinion? Support for same-sex marriage has now solidified above 50 percent, according to Gallup. For Democrats, it’s 74 percent. Back in 1996, in the middle of Clinton’s first ladyship, support for gay marriage was only 27 percent, according to Gallup data. If she’s changed her mind here, so have lots of other Americans.
Look, O’Malley’s in a tough spot. His quasi-campaign isn’t clicking. It’s not just that Clinton has all but wrapped up the nomination. It’s that O’Malley’s polls are so low – he’s at 1.2 percent in the latest RealClearPolitics rolling average – that he has little chance of winning even if Clinton drops out.
Somebody new would jump in – Sen. Elizabeth Warren, or Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand – and big-foot their way to victory.
O’Malley’s not the front-runner for the vice-presidential nomination, either. That’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro. If a Clinton/Castro ticket wins in 2016, perhaps HUD is where O’Malley will end up.
In the meantime, O’Malley gets to play the role of the Washington Generals, the exhibition basketball team that’s lost more than 13,000 games to the famous Harlem Globetrotters.