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O'Malley's longshot chances could be decent after all

President Martin O'Malley. Imagine that.

Now, imagine what it will take for the former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor to actually pull a major upset in the Democratic primaries and win the November 2016 presidential election.

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Bookmakers say the odds for O'Malley are 25-to-1.

Meanwhile, Hillary Rodham Clinton's odds of becoming president are an even-money bet, according to Paddy Power, the largest Irish bookmaker.

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Republican Jeb Bush's odds are nearly 7-to-2.

Now that the former Maryland governor is a declared candidate for president, we might not see much of him locally.

Folks in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will see a great deal of O'Malley as he tries to overcome his lack of name recognition and the advantages Clinton has in resources and popularity in those key early primary states.

There's even a question of how well O'Malley will do in Maryland.

In our neck of the woods, Clinton did quite well when she ran for president in 2008. Against then-newcomer Barack Obama she won 66 percent of the vote in the precinct of Pikesville High School and 52 percent of the vote in the precinct of Glyndon Elementary School.

She even did well against Obama in precincts with substantial numbers of African-American voters.

Clinton received 39 percent of the vote in the precinct of Reisterstown Elementary School and 30 percent in the precinct of Owings Mills High School.

Compounding O'Malley's problems in Maryland is the fact he doesn't possess the drawing power of Obama among African-American voters.

Additionally, a number of prominent Maryland politicians, including Sen. Ben Cardin of Pikesville, have endorsed Clinton.

Still, O'Malley is a shrewd gambler.

He ran for Baltimore mayor in 1999 even though he was a longshot candidate — and won.

He took on an incumbent governor, Republican Bob Ehrlich, in 2006 — and won convincingly.

He enters the presidential race knowing the odds against him. But if the heavy favorite falters, O'Malley might be next in line in Democratic voters' minds.

Sure, he's the butt of jokes from late-night comedians and "Saturday Night Live," but the laughter could cease if he performs well in Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire.

He benefits from an anemic field of also-rans in the Democratic race.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has declared his candidacy but few take him seriously: He's not even a true Democrat, having run as an independent in his Senate races.

Former Sen. James Webb of Virginia is talking about running but so far hasn't generated much of a groundswell.

The same holds for Rhode Island's former governor and senator, Lincoln Chaffee.

O'Malley is positioning himself as the liberal alternative to the moderate Democratic front-runner. He's betting on Clinton encountering resistance from liberal groups while he promotes a decidedly left-wing agenda.

He's also counting on his skills as a one-to-one campaigner.

O'Malley is an impressive shoe-leather politician, going door-to-door or shaking every hand in a small-town diner. He's sharp, engaging and energetic: He loves this 24/7 sort of politicking that is essential in early-primary states.

Going up against the Bill and Hillary Clinton legacy won't be easy. There remains an air of inevitability about Hillary's primary victory.

In some polls, O'Malley barely registers while Clinton's approval rating hovers near 60 percent.

How far O'Malley will pursue his dream remains a key question.

He may be aiming for a more substantial presidential run in four or eight years.

Either way, it's been a long time — 1932 — since Maryland got to root for a favorite son in presidential primaries.

Let's enjoy the moment while we can.

Barry Rascovar's blog is http://www.politicalmaryland.com. He can be reached at brascovar@hotmail.com.

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