On N.H. visit, O’Malley says he ‘just might’ run in 2020 election

  • Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley sits with Hassan Essa, a 20-year-old refugee from Kuwait who’s a Democratic candidate for alderman in Manchester, at the Puritan Backroom. Paul Steinhauser / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 9/28/2017 5:52:18 PM

Martin O’Malley says he “very well might” run for the White House again.

But the former two-term Maryland governor and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate said that’s not why he returned to New Hampshire this week, his third visit to the first-in-the-nation primary state this year.

O’Malley explained he’s focusing his attention on helping Democrats running in contests this year and the 2018 midterms, rather than on a possible second presidential run in 2020.

“What I’m sensing out there is that people are in a correcting mood,” O’Malley said in an interview with the Monitor. “We’ve got to get our country back on track, and I’m putting my energies into helping people all across the country who are running for office because we have to win back our states if we are ever going to govern again in the United States.”

O’Malley was at Manchester’s Puritan Backroom, a must-stop for any White House hopeful, to meet Hassan Essa, a 20-year-old refugee from Kuwait who’s a Democratic candidate for alderman in Manchester.

O’Malley and Essa were eventually joined Wednesday by Democratic state Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh. O’Malley traveled to the Granite State this past summer to help campaign for Cavanaugh, who won a fiercely contested special election over former Republican state senator Dave Boutin by a larger-than-expected margin.

Later, O’Malley was the main attraction at a Manchester fundraiser for Democratic mayoral candidate Joyce Craig. O’Malley finished the evening by keynoting a gathering of Salem Democrats.

O’Malley’s New Hampshire visit isn’t far from the norm for him lately. He’s been crisscrossing the country, helping Democrats running in off-year elections. He highlighted this week’s special election victory by Annette Taddeo in Florida, who was elected the Sunshine State’s first Latina Democrat in the state senate. O’Malley was recently in Florida to help Taddeo. He also touted Cavanaugh’s victory, as well as Tuesday’s state House special election where Democrat Kari Lerner edged out former GOP state representative James Headd by 39 votes in Sandown, Chester and Auburn, a district that President Donald Trump carried by more than 20 percent last November.

“We’ve got 36 governor’s races up all across the country. Governors, state legislatures, critically important offices,” O’Malley explained.

And he took aim at his own party, charging that national Democratic leaders didn’t put enough energy and resources into winning state races.

“Sadly, as Democrats over the last eight years, we’ve kind of stopped acting like a party. We took our eye off the ball,” O’Malley said.

But he forecast a new era for the party, saying “I believe that we are rebuilding in a way that is much more distributed, much more grassroots, much more up-from-cities and -towns and -counties than the Democratic Party of old. And that’s going to be good for our whole country.”

O’Malley said Trump’s actions are motivating Democrats.

“I believe that people all across our country realize that we need to bring America back to a much more even keel, that the extremism of Trumpism is not good for our country. And I think you’re going to see that energize Democratic races and victories across the country,” he said.

The Trump presidency is also fueling the most visits to New Hampshire in the year after a presidential election in a dozen years. Former Missouri secretary of state and 2016 U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander, who now leads the voting rights group Let America Vote, has made five trips to the Granite State this year, with three this month alone.

Also trekking to the land of the first-in-the-nation primary so far this year are such potential 2020 Democratic contenders as former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and U.S. Reps. John Delaney of Maryland and Tim Ryan of Ohio.

O’Malley dropped his 2016 bid for the Democratic nomination after a poor third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, far behind eventual nominee Hillary Clinton and Sanders.

“When I’m asked whether I’ll run again, I say ‘I just might. I very well might,’ ” O’Malley said. “But right now, what I’ve decided is that I’m going to put my energies into helping people that are running in these midterms. In other words, I’ve made an affirmative decision not to make that decision right now.”

What is clear is that making trips to early-voting states like New Hampshire – and campaigning for Democratic candidates here and across the country who are running this year and next – could pay dividends in 2019, when the next presidential nomination primary battle heats up.

When it came to his 2016 longshot campaign, O’Malley said, “I learned a lot every single day.”

But he added that “I have to tell you that, truthfully, it was one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever attempted in my life.”

O’Malley admitted that the mood of the country worked against his 2016 campaign.

“So much about politics is about timing. And in our country the mood of the nation was one of anger, rage and retribution. People in both the Democratic and Republican Party wanted a sledgehammer. They wanted to send a message to their national leaders and wanted to break the table of Democracy, if you will,” he explained.

But O’Malley was optimistic that conditions would be different if he ran again.

“We’re moving into a different time, and I believe that people want to know that their government is actually working and looking for the best interests of their families and their kids,” he said.

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