- The Washington Times - Monday, June 1, 2015

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley is attempting to drive a wedge between Hillary Rodham Clinton and the party’s key constituencies of young voters, Hispanics and the anti-Wall Street crowd, part of the former Maryland governor’s come-from-behind strategy to break off support from a dominating front-runner.

Mr. O'Malley entered the race Saturday as an absolute underdog, scratching at the bottom of the pack in the polls and trailing Mrs. Clinton by 50 points or more. But he immediately went after Mrs. Clinton where she is most vulnerable.

He’s targeting liberal activists who don’t trust Mrs. Clinton’s close ties to Wall Street and corporate America, Hispanics voters who remain leery of her commitment to immigration reform after years of bucking them on the issue, and young voters who likely hold no allegiance to the Clinton brand.

The groups Mr. O'Malley is courting closely mirror the coalition assembled by President Obama in his successful 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

Democratic campaign consultants doubt whether Mr. O'Malley’s angling for those voter blocs or any strategy he employs will be enough to undo Mrs. Clinton’s standing as the all-but-inevitable nominee. They point out that Mrs. Clinton has a 25-year head start with nearly every constituency, a formidable fundraising machine and the backing of the party establishment.

O'Malley could get all these people, and it still would wouldn’t be enough to beat Hillary,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. “The campaign is a referendum on Hillary. The only way for her challengers to beat her is if she implodes or beats herself.”

In an appearance Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Mr. O'Malley hammered Mrs. Clinton and likely Republican contender Jeb Bush for being in the pocket of Wall Street titans.

“I believe that the presidency is a sacred trust, and I believe that we are best served by giving the choice of who our president should be to the people of the United States and not to the big banks on Wall Street,” he said. “I believe that when the CEO of Goldman Sachs says he’d be just fine with either Bush or Clinton — that should be a wake-up call for all of us, because we still haven’t delivered on the promise of reining in excesses on Wall Street, and our entire economy [is] still vulnerable to that.”

He was referring to reported comments by Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

The dig at Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Bush, a former Florida governor, followed two days of Mr. O'Malley blasting Wall Street and America’s superrich on the campaign trail.

“When a country reaches a point where it has concentrated wealth in the hands of so very few, that it’s sucking opportunity out of the homes of the many, there are two paths for us: One is a sensible rebalancing for our common good, and the other is pitchforks,” Mr. O'Malley said at an event Sunday in Des Moines, Iowa.

His message about Wall Street will resonate with liberal activists who urged Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to join the race and remain skeptical of Mrs. Clinton.

But Mr. O'Malley must catch up with Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, a self-proclaimed socialist who a month ago entered the race for the Democratic nomination and has enjoyed an uptick in the polls.

Mr. Sanders drew large crowds in Iowa over the weekend. A Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll released Monday showed Mr. Sanders is in second place, garnering 16 percent among likely Democratic caucus participants. Mrs. Clinton led with 57 percent, and Mr. O'Malley was at the back of the pack with 2 percent.

Mr. O'Malley has sought to forge inroads with Hispanic voters. He holds up his record of championing the agenda of pro-immigration activists, including signing the Maryland law that gave driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants and the DREAM Act that provided in-state tuition to young adult illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

He is also making a strong play for young voters.

In his speech at a rally in Baltimore that kicked off his campaign, and in whirlwind stops that followed in early-voting states Iowa and New Hampshire, Mr. O’Malley, 52, demonstrated a youthful vigor and touted “new ideas” in his challenge to Mrs. Clinton, 67.

He touted his success in Maryland making public schools the “best in the United States” and making college more affordable, as well as passing laws that provided marriage equality for homosexuals, raised the minimum wage and raised environmental standards to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

“It took new leadership, new perspectives and new approaches,” he said at the rally.

He also reminded voters how long it’s been and how much the world has changed since Mrs. Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, was in the White House in the 1990s.

“Make no mistake about it, our ability to lead the world and be safe in this world depends on the strength of the American dream here at home,” he said. “The challenges we face in the world today are different from the challenges we faced in the 1990s.”

Democratic campaign strategist Craig Varoga, who previously worked on Mr. Clinton’s 1996 re-election team and on Mr. O'Malley’s gubernatorial run, said that attracting young voters would help, but that what Mr. O’Mally really needed was luck.

“He has to run a perfect campaign, raise a lot of money, get around Bernie Sanders and then get very, very lucky before he becomes a direct challenge to the Clinton campaign,” he said. “That’s true of all voters, not just specific groups of likely primary voters.”



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