What are Martin O'Malley's chances of being Mr. Liberal 2016?

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley announced his candidacy for president last weekend. He wants to catch fire with the left. But another candidate might beat him to it.

Charlie Neibergall/AP
Democratic presidential candidate former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley waits to speak to supporters at his campaign headquarters Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa.

Elizabeth Warren isn’t running. The left has tried and tried, but the anti-Wall Street firebrand senator from Massachusetts just isn’t going to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Progressives have moved on, for the most part. They’re looking for another standard-bearer. So who’s going to end up as Mr. (or Ms.) Liberal 2016?

Bill de Blasio seems to be auditioning for the role. The New York City mayor has lately had an active national travel schedule. But his quest seems quixotic – he’s only been in office 16 months. Plus, he’s got troubles back home.

Martin O’Malley might be more likely. He announced his run Saturday, and he’s going to try and position himself to Mrs. Clinton’s left. The former Maryland governor had a quiet meeting with a group of key progressives in New York City in May and promoted himself as Warren-like, but actually in the race. He said he opposes President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. That’s a litmus test for liberals.

But as far as the left is concerned Mr. O’Malley might be a Martin-come-lately. His ideology seemed more moderate when he served as governor, which is unsurprising since state chief executives have to be pragmatic, even in a blue state. Then there’s O’Malley’s charisma gap. When you hear him speak, “firebrand” isn’t a word that comes to mind, as it does with Ms. Warren.

So we’ll go with the safe choice here: Bernie Sanders. The white-haired, articulate Vermont senator seems the favorite to win liberals’ hearts. He’s already declared his presidential intentions, and he’s long resided at the left edge of the Democratic Party – or just beyond it. He’s the only sitting US lawmaker who uses the word “socialist” to describe himself.

Mr. Sanders’s liberal bent was on full display in a recent Reddit Q-and-A. He wants public college education to be tuition-free. He said National Security Agency surveillance was “Orwellian” and that the country needs a constitutional amendment to limit political campaign contributions. He advocated a guaranteed basic income and said climate change “is the most significant planetary crisis we face.”

Sanders is running at nearly 9 percent in HuffPost Pollster’s rolling average of Democratic nomination surveys. O’Malley gets about 2 percent. It’s early, but we’d say that’s indicative.

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