Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley was in New Hampshire this weekend to rub shoulders with influential Democrats in the early-voting state as he begins to test the waters for a presidential run in 2016.
The charismatic Democrat, who is considered a long shot for the nomination if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decides to run, but an intriguing possibility if she does not, is due to travel to Iowa, another early-voting state, later this month.
O'Malley was in New Hampshire to give the keynote address at Manchester Democrats' annual Flag Day Dinner, and a central theme of the speech was the heroic role his hometown played in American history.
The former mayor of Baltimore recited the Star Spangled Banner, which Francis Scott Key penned as he watched the U.S. flag waving over Fort McHenry after the War of 1812's Battle of Baltimore.
O'Malley said the words still resonated and challenged Americans to "to give to our children a more perfect union."
For all its lofty themes, O'Malley's appearance showcased his close ties to local Democratic power brokers.
O'Malley, 51, a second-term governor who is barred from seeking a third, has not said he is seeking the presidency but his activities suggest he is thinking about it.
He addressed New Hampshire Democrats' 2012 convention, and attended the Jefferson-Jackson dinner last November.
He will attend Iowa Democrats' Hall of Fame Celebration on June 20 and deliver the keynote address for the party convention the next day.
In addition to Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden is seen as a possible presidential contender.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has strong populist appeal, while Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Deval Patrick of Massachusetts are, like O'Malley, viewed as contenders only if Clinton does not enter the race, said Ted Sheckels, of Randolph-Macon College in Virginia.
"O'Malley has been in the past a strong supporter of Clinton, so I think his aspirations are tied to what she does," he said, adding O'Malley could be considered for vice president.
As governor, O'Malley has backed higher taxes and increased spending on education. He backed same-sex marriage, tougher gun laws, environmental protection and the repeal of the death penalty.
But even in O'Malley's home state, Clinton is the early favorite. A Baltimore Sun survey in February showed 59 percent of Maryland Democrats backing Clinton. O'Malley notched 6 percent. (Additional reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Edith Honan)