Dismissed: Tenants lose, landlords win in Baltimore's rent court

O'Malley, in New Hampshire, hoping for a boost from debate

New poll shows little movement for O'Malley in New Hampshire.

Like many voters outside Maryland, Tom Lanzetta had never given Martin O'Malley much consideration until the two-term governor showed up on his television screen this week for the first Democratic presidential debate.

Lanzetta, a 74-year-old man who lives a few minutes from this New England college town, said he thought O'Malley did "fine" on Tuesday — not outstanding, but well enough that he drove to Dartmouth College on Friday to hear him speak in person.

"I'm definitely going to dig deeper," Lanzetta said after O'Malley spent 45 minutes taking questions. "I don't want one person to be leading all the way."

O'Malley, who is making his first campaign swing in New Hampshire since tangling on the debate stage with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders from neighboring Vermont, is hoping to capitalize on precisely that sentiment.

For now, it might be the best he can hope for.

Few dispute that O'Malley did well Tuesday. The telegenic 52-year-old was smooth, prepared for difficult questions — including queries about his crime-fighting strategy as Baltimore's mayor — and he aggressively elbowed his way into the discussion.

More than 15 million people watched the candidates on CNN, making it the most-viewed Democratic presidential debate ever.

The problem for O'Malley is that front-runner Clinton and Sanders were strong, too, many agree. O'Malley acknowledged Friday that his performance didn't alter the 2016 landscape for him.

"I don't think anybody expected to change minds with the first debate, but I think we certainly opened a lot of minds," O'Malley said in an interview.

"And we've certainly seen a lot of our friends enthused and willing to go deeper and go broader in their own circle and bring their friends to the cause."

A poll released by the Boston Globe on Friday found Clinton regaining ground she had lost in recent months to Sanders. But for O'Malley, there was little change: The former governor had support from 1 percent of New Hampshire voters.

"The problem for O'Malley is that doing well is not good enough," said Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. "He's got to do really well," he said, "and either Sanders or Clinton has to do something that questions their capacity to be president."

For now, O'Malley is doing what he has done for months: He's campaigning like a front-runner instead of a long shot. He sprinted through New Hampshire on Friday, appearing at six official events in four cities — a swing that ran at least 12 hours.

He told students at a technical college in Concord about the CitiStat program he created that brought him national attention as Baltimore's mayor. He spoke to a conference on affordable housing in Manchester about the need for federal funding for cities.

He drew crowds — roughly a few hundred people at each event — but little media attention. The only camera at most of his events on Friday belonged to a tracker from the Clinton campaign who was hoping to catch O'Malley in a gaffe.

By contrast, Clinton — was also in the Granite State on Friday — attracted about 750 people to a town hall at Keene State College. There was a line to get in. More than a dozen news cameramen jockeyed for space on the riser. The event was broadcast by C-SPAN.

Clinton focused on gun control, vowing to make it a priority of her administration.

"Some people say that we shouldn't talk about it. Some say we shouldn't shout about it, that I shouldn't shout about it," Clinton said. "Well, I think we have to keep talking, but more importantly, we have to act."

Savannah Kandigian, a 20-year-old college student sitting in the back row at the Clinton event, said she had not heard much of O'Malley before the debate.

"Solid first impression," she said of O'Malley.

But, she added quickly, not as strong as Clinton.

"Honestly, I think that Clinton just looked so presidential, and so composed and just killed it," she said.

That response, many experts say, largely explains the arc of O'Malley's presidential bid since he announced his campaign atop Federal Hill in April.

"It's going to be a challenge for Martin O'Malley to change the dynamic of the race," said Larry Drake, chairman of the Portsmouth Democratic Committee. "Short of both Clinton and Sanders imploding, which I don't see happening, it's hard to see how he gets much of traction."

Drake is neutral in the contest.

As O'Malley tried to look forward Friday, he was also forced to address a dreadful fundraising quarter just concluded. His campaign disclosed late Thursday that it had raised $1.3 million from July to September, and that it is spending more money than it is taking in — an imbalance that raised questions about his long-term sustainability.

By contrast, Clinton raised more than $28 million and Sanders posted $26.2 million. Clinton has more than 40 times the cash O'Malley has on hand.

O'Malley played down the numbers. He said there were signs that his debate performance is beginning to pay off, and he is confident he'll have enough cash to keep his campaign running through the early-voting states.

"We've seen a big uptick in our fundraising, a big uptick in interest since the debate," he said. "It's been a huge shot in the arm for fundraising. It couldn't have come at a better time, man. We needed it."

His campaign declined to say exactly how much more money has come in since the debate.

O'Malley got his start in presidential politics on Gary Hart's 1984 campaign, a bid many dismissed — until the Colorado senator beat expectations in Iowa and won New Hampshire. Given that history, O'Malley seems comfortable as an underdog. He is reliably upbeat, and rarely misses an opportunity to refer to Clinton, with dripping sarcasm, as the "inevitable front-runner."

But he has also slipped reflective, self-critical lines into his stump speech.

"I know that when a man stands before you with 2 percent national name recognition, tells you that he's running for president and it's going well, that there's a fine line between delusion and imagination," O'Malley told the students at Dartmouth.

Reilly Hay was just getting acquainted with O'Malley's record this week. The 19-year-old student from Keene said he liked O'Malley's plan to move the nation to a clean-energy electric grid.

"He came off polished, second only to Clinton," Hay said. "It seemed like he was saying all the right things."

But Hay then turned to a certain stiffness, or insincerity, he said he sensed in O'Malley. Hay decided that the best word to describe it is "schmoozy."

"He got a lot of exposure," Hay concluded, "but I can't see him having a big boost from that debate."

john.fritze@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jfritze

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