Martin O’Malley Steps Closer to 2016 Presidential Run

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signaled that he is moving closer to mounting a 2016 presidential campaign this weekend at the summer meeting of the National Governors Association in Milwaukee.

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Patrick Semansky / AP

Supporters look on as Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, sitting third from right, signs a bill abolishing capital punishment in the state during a ceremony in Annapolis, Md., Thursday, May 2, 2013.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signaled that he is moving closer to mounting a 2016 presidential campaign this weekend at the summer meeting of the National Governors Association in Milwaukee.

Speaking to reporters Saturday — 1,192 days before Election Day — while sipping a beer in the wood-paneled lobby of the Hilton hotel, the Democrat seemed excited by the possibility, speaking candidly about his ongoing preparations. “It’s going well,” he said, adding that he’s given a number of significant addresses over the past several months at universities and think tanks. “By the end of this year I think we’re on course to have a body of work that lays the framework for a candidacy in 2016.”

O’Malley also highlighted the work of his O’ Say Can You See PAC, which is supporting “like-minded candidates,” and growing his social-media presence. The political-action committee raised more than $500,000 in the first six months of 2013 and donated to early state candidates Iowa Representative Bruce L. Braley, a 2014 candidate for U.S. Senate, and New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen, as O’Malley oversaw one of the most productive — and most liberal — legislative sessions of any governor in the country. The governor signed strict gun-control legislation, boosted the state’s transportation funding and abolished the state’s death penalty. In 2012, he successfully advocated for initiatives to legalize same-sex marriages in Maryland.

O’Malley said he is also taking the time “to let my soul catch up to where my body’s been,” slowing down to read, write and think before making the critical and life-altering decision.

Among the books he’s been reading: beach fare like Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass’ new book Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America’s House in Order; former Bill Clinton speechwriter Eric Liu and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer’s work The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government; and author Parker Palmer’s Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit.

O’Malley hinted at a possible theme for his campaign, warning of a national “crisis of confidence” that won’t be over before the 2014 midterm elections.

We’re going through a period as a country — we’re going through this crisis of confidence. And great republics sometimes go through these periods. Individuals call them ‘the dark night of the soul.’ We’re going through a time of confusion and a time of polarization, and a time of real crisis about whether or not we’re still capable as a people of accomplishing big and important things. None more important than restoring the balance of our economy so that our middle class can continue to grow and give more opportunities to each successive generation. I don’t think we’re going to get through that. We will get through that period — of that I have no doubt. I don’t think we’ll get through that period by 2014. And so you’re going to have this debate rage in all the states.

“It’s probably going to continue … for a couple more cycles,” he added.

O’Malley, the former chairman of the Democratic Governors Association and frequent Obama surrogate, is scheduled to leave his job as governor in 2015 after eight years in the governor’s mansion because of term limits. Jumping into the race early will likely be essential if he is to mount a serious bid for the White House.

A McClatchy-Marist poll last month found him polling at 1% of the Democratic primary electorate, if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also decides to run. A May poll from Quinnipiac University found that even with Clinton out of the race for the Democratic nomination, the Maryland governor would start off with the support of only 3% of Democratic voters.