His name isn’t on Tuesday’s ballot, but his future is
Martin O’Malley, like any other politician, wants to be liked. And he’s trying really hard. This election cycle few have worked harder on behalf of the Democratic Party in states across the country than the Maryland governor. But many in the party have greeted O’Malley with little more than a shrug. As the 2016 presidential race launches the moment the Tuesday polls close, he’s attracting little interest nationally and—if it even seems possible—even less interest from his own constituents.
O’Malley’s failure to resonate as a national figure might come as a surprise to your everyday liberal activist familiar with only the governor’s vaunted résumé. As mayor of Baltimore he earned a tough-on-crime reputation and then turned around and banned capital punishment as governor, claiming the practice was “wasteful and ineffective.”
He signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in 2012 and then successfully campaigned to reject a ballot initiative that would have overturned it. He raised gas taxes, legalized medical marijuana, passed gun control and a state version of the DREAM Act, and led Maryland’s schools to five consecutive years at the top of Education Week’s rankings. And despite his liberal policies, Maryland didn’t become some high-tax business-repelling backwater—the state’s unemployment rate has remained steadily below the national average throughout his tenure, and the state’s median household income consistently ranks in the country’s top three or four. He has cultivated a reputation as a manager and a problem-solver, but also a social justice Catholic.