- Associated Press - Friday, August 28, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley knows he needs to make a big splash in early presidential contests like Iowa and New Hampshire, but he said he’s already looking ahead to the next group of primary states like Tennessee in his bid for the Democratic nomination.

O’Malley traveled to Nashville on Thursday for a fundraiser and to begin laying his campaign groundwork among campus and county organizers.

“After a challenging candidate with 1 percent name recognition gets that spark in the early states, you have to have the organization set up in the other 48 in order to ride that wave,” he said, citing similar paths taken by candidates like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Gary Hart.

O’Malley said he was undaunted by the heavy Republican trend in Tennessee in recent years, pointing to the success for former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen - who gave $2,700 to his presidential campaign in June.

O’Malley chided Tennessee’s current Republican government for resorting to “corporate welfare” to lure Italian gun-maker Beretta from Maryland after gun-control measures were enacted there in 2013.

“After the slaughter of the innocents in Newtown, Connecticut, we decided to take action as a state to save more lives from the sickness in America that is gun violence,” O’Malley said.

The law included a licensing requirement for handgun purchasers to submit fingerprints to the state police, a ban on 45 assault weapons and a limit on gun magazines to 10 bullets.

“No hunter worth a damn needs 10 rounds to take a deer down,” O’Malley said, brushing off questions about whether his record on Second Amendment issues would hurt him in the gun-friendly South.

“If I had to do it over again, I would do the same thing,” he said. “If you talk to young people under 30 in all parts of our country, you see where the consensus is going on this.”

O’Malley said he’d welcome Vice President Joe Biden to the Democratic race, especially if it would put more pressure on the Democratic National Committee to organize more debates.

“Until we start having debates, our party’s going to be branded by questions like what did Secretary Clinton know about her emails, and when did she know it,” he said. “We need to talk about the ideas that serve our national interest.”

Clinton easily won Tennessee over Barack Obama in 2008, though she lost in the state’s Democratic cities of Nashville, Memphis and Chattanooga - places where O’Malley’s politics might resonate.

“I’m the only candidate that make the claim to have progressive values and make progressive promises,” he said.

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