- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has refused to quietly bow out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, as he intensifies attacks on his rivals, barnstorms early-voting states and trumpets hot-button issues such as gun control — but even his fans say it’s the death throes of his campaign.

He sought attention Wednesday with a press event in Boulder, Colorado, to coincide with the Republican presidential candidates debate there. Joined by families of victims of a 2012 mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater, he called for more gun laws and touted his record of making Maryland one of the most restrictive states on gun purchases.

O’Malley campaign officials insisted that he will stay in the race through the country’s first nominating contest in Iowa and, regardless of how he finishes in those Feb. 1 caucuses, will continue through the first primary election in New Hampshire a little more than a week later.

Still, dwindling fundraising and persistent low poll numbers have rendered Mr. O’Malley the odd-man-out in a race dominated by front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton and her chief challenger on the left, Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders.

Democratic campaign adviser Craig Varoga, who served as chief strategist on Mr. O’Malley’s 2010 re-election campaign for governor but is not involved in his presidential bid, called the increasingly desperate run “very sad.”

“He had a good record as [Baltimore] mayor and governor, but didn’t lay the groundwork for a serious campaign, announced too late, has never found an issue that voters care about or that sets him apart from either Clinton or Sanders, has never raised much money outside of Maryland and is now grasping at straws and gimmicks to get 60 seconds of passing attention on cable shows,” he said.

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“Running against Hillary Clinton in the primaries was always going to be difficult, but at this point, unless you’re Bernie Sanders and living inside an ideological bubble, it’s only going to get more difficult,” Mr. Varoga said.

Expectations began mounting last week for Mr. O’Malley to quit the race after former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee ended their struggling campaigns for the Democratic nomination.

Mr. O’Malley, 52, who has presented himself as a new generation of leadership for the progressive movement, instead has sharpened his attacks on Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders.

“Both candidates have been in Washington for about 40 years, and neither has gotten much done,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“Hillary Clinton has changed her mind on virtually every issue in this race except for one, and that is to protect the big banks on Wall Street,” Mr. O’Malley said.

He went after Mr. Sanders for his mixed record on gun laws, which is the only issue where Mr. O’Malley has room to challenge the senator from the left.

“When Senator Sanders had an opportunity to stand up to the NRA, instead, he pushed through a bill in Congress that gave immunity to gun manufacturers,” he said.

He highlighted the same issue at the event in Boulder.

With Mr. Chafee and Mr. Webb out of the race, the only company for Mr. O’Malley at the bottom of the polls is Harvard professor Larry Lessig, who is waging a single-issue campaign for election reform.

O’Malley supporters have been left to ponder what went wrong.

He entered the race as a longshot and never improved his odds, despite his youthful good looks, polished stump speech and solid liberal record.

He went after the party’s left-wing activists who were looking for a new champion after being disappointed that liberal firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts refused calls to join the race.

Those Warren-wing voters instead gravitated to Mr. Sanders, a Vermont independent who calls himself a democratic socialist and has rallied a grass-roots movement with calls for a political revolution in America.

“It’s not really what went wrong for Martin O’Malley as much as it’s a matter of, frankly, the way the establishment underestimated Sen. Sanders‘ ability to appeal to progressives and build a national movement and be a clear alternative to the front-runner,” said Neil Sroka, a spokesman for Howard Dean’s Democracy for America.

His liberal activist group was at the forefront of the effort to draft Mrs. Warren.

Mr. Sroka said that liberal voters didn’t buy Mr. O’Malley’s claim that he is more electable than the curmudgeonly 74-year-old Mr. Sanders, adding that the ex-governor “looks too much like a presidential candidate.”

“I don’t think I’d be out of line saying that, if you could invent a presidential candidate, he would look a lot like Martin O’Malley,” Mr. Sroka said. “In a lot of ways, the American electorate right now, and including the Democratic Party, is looking for candidates who kind of stand outside, that are different, who are outsiders in their own way.”

Mr. O’Malley got a slight rise in a Monmouth University survey of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers released this week — the first poll since Mr. Chafee and Mr. Webb left the race. He received 5 percent of the vote, with Mrs. Clinton capturing 65 percent and Mr. Sanders 24 percent.

Mr. O’Malley garners lower poll numbers in New Hampshire and nationally.

He also trails far behind in the money race.

In the quarter ending Sept. 30, Mr. O’Malley reported $1.28 million in contributions, down from $2 million he earned in the previous quarter. He had just $806,000 cash on hand, raising doubts about his ability to keep paying staff.

Mrs. Clinton raised $29.9 million and Mr. Sanders $26.2 million in the last quarter.

George Ensley, Democratic Party chairman for Boone County, Iowa, had supported Ms. Warren supporter but transferred his allegiance to Mr. Sanders. He said the senator and Mr. O’Malley offered nearly identical agendas, including expanding Social Security, cracking down on Wall Street and fighting climate change.

The difference, he said, is that Mrs. Warren and Mr. Sanders have “big fire in their bellies.”

“Their speeches gave you goose bumps,” Mr. Ensley said. “O’Malley not quite as much, but he’s getting there. His time is coming. He’ll be one of the great leaders, I’d say, in 10 years.”

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