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O'Malley's star rises a little as Clinton's gets tarnished

Nobody asked me, but I'm pretty sure the chances of Martin O'Malley being the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee moved from no-way to just far-fetched in the last week. (Definition of "far-fetched" from vocabulary.com: "Highly imaginative but unlikely.")

Revelations about Hillary Clinton — a suspicious private email account and huge donations to her family's foundation from foreign corporations and governments while she was secretary of state — put significant cracks in her anticipated candidacy. The reports led to speculation in the national press about the Democratic Party's sudden need for a backup plan. And O'Malley, the former Maryland governor, was right there, along with Vice President Joe Biden and Jim Webb, the former Virginia senator and Navy secretary.

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O'Malley's quick announcement that he would not run to replace Barbara Mikulski in the U.S. Senate next year made it clear he's all business about being president someday. That was kind of surprising and even refreshing.

Had he done what I expected him to do and jumped into the Senate race, he would have betrayed the same kind of opportunistic nature we saw 13 years ago when, after serving as mayor of Baltimore for just a couple of years, he came within inches of running for governor. (Mikulski played a big role in talking O'Malley out of challenging then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend for the nomination. Townsend lost the general election to Bob Ehrlich.)

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So taking a pass on Mikulski's seat elevated O'Malley's status in the presidential field.

He's still not well-known, and he's still kind of a yawn as a political personality. "Governor Meh" is what The New Republic called him.

But, in addition to the sudden cracks in the Clinton candidacy, he's got this going for him: Clinton fatigue.

Being the party's undeclared front-runner probably hurts Clinton with Democratic voters who are looking for new faces and ideas, and who resent the associations Hillary and Bill Clinton have had with Wall Street in the long wake of the Great Recession. Americans hate coronations, but that's what Democratic Party leadership seems to be offering so far.

O'Malley, meanwhile, decided to take a seat on the bench — just in case the Clinton thing doesn't work out.

Marylanders suffering from O'Malley fatigue might be scratching their heads that he could be a serious candidate for president. But he developed a slow-and-steady strategy and stuck to it, campaigning in key states, serving a couple of terms as chair of the Democratic Governors Association. He even followed the Bill Clinton playbook and gave a lame speech at the party's national convention in 2012.

O'Malley is only 52 years old and, aside from a recently busted elbow, in good health. So get used to it.

Nobody asked me, but O'Malley probably had a much better week as a possible presidential candidate than Dr. Ben Carson did on the Republican side. Carson criticizes the press for repeatedly asking for his views on gays and same-sex marriage. But he keeps saying outrageous things, betraying an unhealthy obsession with homosexuality. I know I speak for many longtime admirers who ask: What happened to this man?

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I know he wants to be president, but, at 63, isn't Carson still needed somewhere in the world as a neurosurgeon? Medecins Sans Frontieres, among other medical missions, could certainly use his help. I'm just saying.

Nobody asked me, but the mayor of Baltimore might want to make sure all the cracked pipes and water meters are finally fixed — and that all of the city's customers have running water again — before she announces a run for Mikulski's seat.

And if Stephanie Rawlings-Blake decides to be a candidate for Mikulski's seat, then I hope Mikulski runs for Rawlings-Blake's seat. You heard it here first: Mikulski for mayor.

Toughest call of any of the possible contenders for Mikulski's seat: Rep. Elijah Cummings. He'd be very attractive as a candidate and have a real shot, but he'd also be giving up a safe seat in the House and Maryland would lose one fine congressman.

Nobody asked me, but if I were news director at WBAL-TV, I'd have kept the retired Rob Roblin on retainer just for his snowstorm stand-ups.

If I were Kevin Plank, the CEO of Under Armour, I'd include a small manufacturing plant in my big, beautiful vision for Port Covington. I'd put local people to work making a few Under Armour products, then market them as "Made in Baltimore, USA." If they cost a few bucks more at the retail level, so be it. You can't tell me there isn't a market for at least some made-in-America athletic wear.

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Nobody asked me, but the Maryland Transit Administration should send a daily reminder to its bus operators: Turn on your CAD-AVL, the onboard GPS-based mechanism that allows the MTA to track your movements. It's an essential part of the new system that gives bus riders real-time information on their smartphones and computers. The system doesn't work unless the buses are transmitting information. So, drivers, please: Get on board.

drodricks@baltsun.com

Dan Rodricks' column appears each Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He is the host of "Midday" on WYPR-FM.


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