By Richard Barry
Anything can happen in politics. We’ve all seen improbable outcomes. Though pundits will sometimes deny this, it is usually unwise to suggest there is, in an absolute sense, no hope once a candidate decides to jump in.
And, no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump and the embarrassment his current small degree of success is causing for anyone with a conscience nor how so many of us will feel should he survive too far into the process.
I am thinking about former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and how strange it must be for him to contemplate Bernie Sanders’ success – the same Bernie Sanders whose full legal name many must think is “Self-Described Socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders,” as I don’t think I’ve ever read an article about him without that phrase in it.
O’Malley knew from the start that the only way to run against Hillary Clinton was from the left, as so many Democrats don’t trust Mrs. Clinton to be a voice of true progressivism and find her, fair or not, to be on the side of wealth, power, privilege, Wall Street, etc.
When Sen. Elizabeth Warren chose not the run O’Malley must have seen a clear path to a credible candidacy and many months of robust media attention.
So, that hasn’t happened, at least not in the short term.
In a recent piece in the Des Moines Register, it was said that O’Malley is looking to Iowa where he will go “all in” in an attempt to present himself as the “anti-establishment” option and the real alternative to Hillary Clinton.
As the Register rightly points out, O’Malley has little choice. It’s easy to make the case that he either establishes himself as a real threat here or goes home as New Hampshire is next, a state that has long been good to the Clintons and is in Sanders’ backyard. After then it’s on to South Carolina and Nevada, states with significant numbers of minority voters, also fertile ground for Clinton success.
Much of the Register article outlines the work O’Malley’s team intends to do in Iowa including hiring paid staff, a travel schedule that would see him meet as many eligible voters as humanly possible, and investing more in resources than in any other early-voting state.
As we know, Iowa is not without its magic. In 2008, the state was a springboard to then-Sen. Barack Obama’s eventual Democratic nomination win, which is still probably not a great topic for conversation at the Clinton household. On the Republican side, in 2012 Rick Santorum came out on top and positioned himself for many as the anti-Romney.
The point is that it’s a funny little process in Iowa and odd things have been known to happen even if, according to recent polling, few people in Iowa seem to know who Martin O’Malley is. He’ll have to change that.
At a minimum, O’Malley has to come out of Iowa as Hillary Clinton’s main opponent, which obviously means he has to leap-frog Bernie Sanders. The thing is, I actually believe O’Malley might be able to do that based on one observation, which is that the Democratic Party, from coast to coast, especially away from the major media centres, is not as liberal as it would need to be for the Bernie Sanders wave to continue unabated. Sure, O’Malley will position himself to the left of Hillary Clinton, but he could do it in a way ultimately more palatable to Democratic voters.
I am just saying that I wouldn’t count Martin O’Malley out mostly because he is a very good retail politician in a caucus process where that counts for so much, and his opponent for second place is still “The Self-Described Socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.”
If O’Malley comes out of Iowa with only Mrs. Clinton ahead of him, that changes everything including how hard it will be for Mrs. Clinton to win the nomination. In other words, Clinton should prefer Bernie Sanders as her main opponent.
By the way, I’m not saying I want it to happen, only that it could.
(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)
Labels: 2016 Democratic presidential nomination