Tags: Martin O'Malley

The Soft Underbelly of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Bid


You are likely to see a lot of stories like this one in the coming years, alleging previously unreported reckless sexual behavior on the part of Bill Clinton while he was in the White House. Some rivals of Hillary Clinton will see this as a liability for her increasingly likely presidential campaign. More than a few people will recall how public sympathy for her exploded during the Lewinsky scandal, and contend these sorts of allegations actually help her; she’s soldiering on during great hardship, etc.

The years of 2015 and 2016 will feature a dramatically different political and economic environment than the late 1990s. In 1998, the country was at illusory peace (the threat of al-Qaeda was building, lurking, and beginning to strike at Americans overseas) and enjoying great prosperity, fueled largely by the dot-com bubble. A White House marriage marked by relentless, crass, and often risky philandering may seem like small potatoes in a time of economic stagnation and global instability . . . or it may seem like one more problem the country doesn’t need right now.

By themselves, tales of Bill Clinton’s affairs, past or present, won’t derail a Hillary Clinton presidential bid. But they may be a bit more baggage for a candidate who has already managed to lose a presidential race she was heavily favored to win.

Presuming he runs, Vice President Joe Biden may prove a bit more of an impediment than the early polling indicates. A Biden 2016 campaign will have a simple message, “Keep it going,” and he will pitch himself as Obama’s third term. Obama fans in the Democratic primary may buy that pitch or they may not, but it will be pretty difficult for any other Democrat to criticize Biden without implicitly criticizing the president.

No matter what the state of the country is in 2016, criticism of Obama in the Democratic primary will be rare. Think back to 2008, and how George W. Bush was rarely directly criticized by the GOP field that year. Once Obama took office, a lot of long-repressed frustration about runaway spending, coziness with Wall Street, and military interventions bubbled up from the GOP grassroots. But partisans find it extremely difficult to criticize “their guy” in the Oval Office, and they don’t want to hear it on the campaign trial.

You may see some subtle criticism of Obama and his policies, but Hillary won’t be able to make it. A governor like Martin O’Malley or Brian Schweitzer may be able to argue it’s time for a new face in Washington, or it’s time for a new generation of Democrats to step up. In 2016, Hillary will turn 68; she won’t be able to easily play the age card against then-73-year-old Biden.

Hillary’s not close enough to Obama to run on his record, but she’s not enough of an outsider to run against Washington. (Remember her foolish friends think she can be sold to the electorate as the Pope Francis of American government.)

Andrew Sullivan, of all people, points out the elephant in the room:

More importantly for me is the inability of her supporters to answer a simple question. I was having dinner with a real Clinton fan the other night, and I actually stumped him (and he’s not easily stumped). What have been Hillary Clinton’s major, signature accomplishments in her long career in public life? What did she achieve in her eight years as First Lady exactly? What stamp did she put on national policy in her time as Senator from New York? What were her defining and singular achievements as secretary-of-state?

Ben Smith’s article in BuzzFeed quotes “a former top Obama aide, who said she would like to see a woman elected but worried that Clinton doesn’t have a compelling rationale for her candidacy.”

The Democratic party of the late Obama years is the party of Elizabeth Warren, who described herself as the “intellectual godmother of Occupy Wall Street,” and the class warfare of New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. By contrast, Hillary Clinton has always been very comfortable with Wall Street, telling Goldman Sachs executives in a paid speech last year that she found banker-bashing foolish. Some liberal blogs call the Clinton Foundation a factory for favor-trading and transactional politics with big corporations. It’s surprising that more Democrats with presidential ambitions aren’t licking their lips in anticipation.

The playbook to beat Hillary was executed by Obama in 2008. A lot of those same criticisms — “manufactured, untrustworthy, and a creature of forgotten Baby Boom quarrels” — are still in play for 2016.

In this Getty photograph from earlier this week, the choice of a new generation of Democrats.

UPDATE: Notice what CNN’s Peter Hamby found in Iowa:

A common theme emerged in conversations about Clinton with more than two dozen Democratic activists, strategists and elected officials during a recent winter week in Iowa: Respect for her within the party runs deep, burnished since 2008 by her tour of duty at the State Department, but widespread passion for Clinton remains wanting.

Can you win a Democratic presidential primary with just “deep respect”? Or is some passion, enthusiasm and inspiration necessary?

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Joe Biden , Bill Clinton , Martin O'Malley , Brian Schweitzer

All of the Non-Michelle Speeches (Condensed Version)


Tomorrow’s Morning Jolt will feature quite a few thoughts on the first night of the Democratic National Convention. I think Michelle Obama gave about as persuasive a case as can be made for her husband’s reelection — primarily because it so quickly and casually glanced at the record of her husband and focused instead on the tales of a much poorer, little-known Barack and Michelle starting their family life, with coffee tables out of dumpsters and cars with holes in the floor. As more than a few noticed on Twitter, about 90 percent of Michelle Obama’s speech could have been given four years ago.

The early governors all seemed to aim to hit the same note, and if any of them broke through, it was Deval Patrick. But Ted Strickland, Martin O’Malley, San Antonio mayor Julian Castro . . . they all blended together. It’s as if the convention organizers gave them a template to personalize, only slightly:

“The country was on the edge of economic apocalypse when Barack Obama took office. It was entirely the fault of free-market economics, and policies encouraging large home loans to people who had spotty or worse credit ratings had absolutely nothing to do with it. Since then, we . . . have . . . made . . . progress! Don’t look too hard at how much progress, or whether 8.3 percent unemployment with a lower labor-force participation rate really counts as progress to you, or whether that’s even remotely close to what we promised four years ago. Lilly Ledbetter now has a much longer period of time to sue her employers, and this is the single most important development for women in the workplace since Rosie the Riveter! If this speech is before 9:45 p.m. Eastern, we must protect women’s right to abortion! If this speech is after 9:45 p.m. Eastern, we trust women to make the best choices . . . (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) about their bodies! We must keep government away from the all-important doctor-patient relationship! Also, we passed health-care reform, and ignore all of that polling you’ve seen since passage, you’re going to love it! The 26-year-old kids among you most of all!”

“And then there’s Mitt Romney. He’s out of touch! He has a Swiss bank account! He’s out of touch from his Swiss bank account! He’s got money in lots of places, and you and I both know, there must be something criminal involved! The Romney-Ryan budget calls for taking away all of your money! And giving it to millionaires and billionaires — and just the ones you really don’t like, not the celebrities and movie stars you’ll be hearing from later this week!”

Tags: Deval Patrick , Julian Castro , Martin O'Malley , Michelle Obama

A Tale of Two Governors, Two States, and Two Parties


This morning the Republican Governors Association is chuckling over the newest sharp contrast between their chairman and the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association (and governor of a neighboring state).

Just days after Virginia governor Bob McDonnell announced a $544 million surplus, Maryland governor Martin O’Malley told county leaders Saturday that Maryland may need to increase taxes to solve a $1 billion budget gap next year.

What makes the contrast even more striking is the fact that McDonnell previously balanced an inherited $4.2 billion budget deficit that Gov. Tim Kaine had said could only be closed with a $2 billion tax increase, while O’Malley has already signed the largest tax increase in Maryland history during his first term.

Both states benefit from the hiring spree and rare layoffs in the federal government, but the unemployment rate in Virginia is 6.1 percent, while the unemployment rate in Maryland is 7.2 percent.

Tags: Bob McDonnell , DGA , Martin O'Malley , RGA , Tim Kaine

Sorry, O’Malley; Your Policies Will Get Other Governors Fired.


Over at Politico, the reelection of Gov. Martin O’Malley in Maryland is interpreted as a sign that raising taxes may not be as politically dangerous as many think.

Republicans relentlessly pounded Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley for raising income, sales and corporate taxes during his first-term.

It didn’t matter.  He disposed of his predecessor Bob Ehrlich by a whopping 14 percentage points during a historic national Republican wave.

O’Malley, now in charge of helping other Democrats get elected as chair of the Democratic Governors Association, was hardly defensive about his hikes in a recent interview — to the point that an aide attempted to reign him in.

That doesn’t mean you should expect tax hikes to appear on bumper stickers — but it could signal a pivot towards taking a run at the Republican reputation for being the fiscal adults in the room.

Indeed, raising taxes in myriad ways didn’t hurt Martin O’Malley. But it helps to be a Democratic incumbent in the sixth-most Democratic state in the union; the state with the fourth-highest percentage of African-American voters (who vote at least 9:1 Democratic most years); a state with 22.4 percent of its workforce employed by the government and only 5.3 percent self-employed; and a state where Democrats have won the governorship every cycle since 1966 with one exception:  Ehrlich’s 2002 gubernatorial win.

In other words, O’Malley enjoyed some of the friendliest territory any tax-hiking governor will face in the modern age. If Democratic governors in other states want to emulate O’Malley’s policies, they’ll probably find a tougher reception.

Tags: Martin O'Malley

Obama’s Making a Campaign Stop In... Maryland? Really?


In a few hours, the Washington Post will release a new poll on Maryland’s governor’s race, which has seemed like a pretty close contest between Democrat incumbent Martin O’Malley and Republican former governor Bob Ehrlich. But there’s other news tucked in the top here:


News that President Obama will hit the campaign trail in Maryland next week in support of Martin O’Malley is sure to buoy Democratic hopes of retaining the governorship. But should it?

A new Washington Post poll in the state reveals evidence for either answer.

Obama scored a dominant victory in Maryland two years ago, thumping Republican John S. McCain by a wide, 62 percent to 37 percent margin. And the new poll shows the president is still broadly popular – 61 percent of all registered voters in the heavily Democratic state say they approve of the way he is doing the job.

At the same time, voters overwhelmingly say the president won’t be a factor in their choice between O’Malley and former-governor Bob Ehrlich, his Republican challenger.

Some 17 percent of all voters say their vote for the state’s top job will be, in part, to express support for Obama; 11 percent say one reason for their vote will be to oppose the president. Most, 70 percent, say their views of the president won’t influence their vote.

I suppose the ease of the commute explains it in part, but… President Obama is going to Maryland? Really? Three weeks from Election Day?

Tags: Barack Obama , Martin O'Malley , Robert Ehrlich

Hide the Decline!


It’s usually dangerous when an incumbent lawmaker sees the world differently than his constituents, but I figure the most damaging manifestation of this occurs when a politician insists that his constituents are doing fine and the constituents believe they face big problems. An incumbent can’t solve a problem that he can’t see or won’t acknowledge.

Despite a bit of GDP growth, the high unemployment rate, shrunken 401(k)s and overall uncertainty mean most Americans feel like we’re still going through a recession. It’s Year Three of the Great Recession, and most economists don’t sound all that optimistic about the year to come. I suspect you would have to see the national unemployment rate below 7 percent before most Americans perceive the country to be seriously recovering.

There’s a great example of this in Maryland, which has a competitive governor’s race between incumbent Democrat Martin O’Malley and Republican Bob Ehrlich:


A senior member of Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration ordered a gloomy economic report removed from a state Web site last month that ran counter to a more positive spin O’Malley’s office had approved about slowing job growth in the state, e-mails show.

The internal report characterized Maryland’s economy as having “stalled.” It was mistakenly posted by a staffer on Aug. 20 and removed hours later as alarm bells rang in two state agencies and in the governor’s office, the documents show.

The negative report ”was diametrically opposed to the discussed and eventually-approved messaging” that goes through a process of being signed off by the department and the governor’s office, one stafferwrote in an e-mail explaining the “situation” to a director in his department. “The theme of the discussion was quite clear that we would emphasize private sector job growth as progressing . . . at no time did we remotely discuss messaging that the economic recovery had stalled.”

Hey, take down that report! Maybe Maryland voters won’t notice the economy!

Tags: Martin O'Malley , Robert Ehrlich

Bob Ehrlich’s Got Some Money to Spend


I thought Robert Ehrlich, the once and perhaps future governor of Maryland, was supposed to get blown out this year in terms of fundraising.

Former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) has raised $3.2 million this year for his comeback campaign, just shy of the $3.3 million that Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said he took in during the same period, according an e-mail Friday morning from Ehrlich’s finance chairmen.

But O’Malley appears to have a 3-to-1 advantage in cash on hand over Ehrlich heading into the final months of the race.

Tags: Bob Ehrlich , Martin O'Malley

60 Percent of Maryland’s Electorate in November Will Be Democrats?


On Election Day 2008, CNN’s exit poll showed a Maryland electorate that consisted of 51 percent self-identified Democrats, 28 percent Republicans, and 21 percent independents.

Today, Public Policy Polling unveiled a poll showing Democratic governor Martin O’Malley leading Republican Robert Ehrlich by 3 percentage points. The poll’s sample splits 60 percent Democrat, 28 percent Republican, 12 percent independents.

As I noted in yesterday’s post, African-Americans made up 25 percent of the electorate in 2008, and 23 percent in 2006 and 2004. The PPP sample presumes that proportionally, African-Americans make up the same share of the 2010 electorate as they did in 2008. 

Either this sort of thing bugs you or it doesn’t. Clearly, using really heavily Democratic samples doesn’t bother the guys at PPP.

Tags: Bob Ehrlich , Martin O'Malley , Polling

Somebody Gets Lost While Trying to Pursue Magellan


Over on Twitter, a contributor to Daily Kos, Steve Lebowitz, contends that the sense that Bob Ehrlich may be pulling ahead of incumbent Democrat Martin O’Malley reflects the “Ehrlich theme team ploy.” His argument can be read in depth here. He contends that one of the firms showing a lead for Ehrlich, Magellan Strategies, is “not a pollster at all” and is ”overstating Ehrlich’s numbers to bolster fundraising, scare the opposition, and distract attention from Mr. Ehrlich’s running mate.” He also calls Magellan’s survey a “payola poll.”

For a moment, let’s put aside the cheap jokes — yes, I made some — about a contributor to Daily Kos questioning the reliability of polls (and in Maryland, home state of Research 2000, no less).

Magellan Strategies is a GOP consulting firm that also conducts polls. I would agree that when reporters write about the firm’s poll results, they ought to mention their Republican affiliation in there somewhere. (As luck would have it, I wrote about this topic in my piece on PPP this morning.)

Lebowitz writes, “Even better, the reporter covering the story should find out who might have paid for the poll.  If Magellan won’t say, a curious reporter might ask the Ehrlich campaign, the Maryland Republican party, the Republican Governor’s Association, or Americans for Prosperity if they’ve been paying Magellan for any work lately.” Actually, there’s a phone number on top of the firm’s press release, and it took me about thirty seconds to reach David Flaherty, CEO of Magellan.

“We have no relationship with Robert Ehrlich, the RGA or any entities in Maryland with an interest in that race,” he said. “We release surveys in states where we don’t have clients to get our name out there and gain some business and to inform public of where things stand in some key states. You can check the candidate and committee FEC filings.”

So there you have it. Of course, down in North Carolina, PPP continues to poll on that state’s Senate race without disclosing their work earlier in the cycle for Democratic nominee Elaine Marshall.

As for whether the Magellan Strategies poll is reliable, its results are in the neighborhood of those of the two most recent Rasmussen polls (a tie, Ehrlich by 1) and the numbers among likely voters in an early-May Washington Post poll (a tie). (Among registered voters, O’Malley led by 8.) I suppose I could see the argument that the percentage of the Magellan sample that is African-American is a bit low at 20 percent; this demographic made up 25 percent of the electorate in 2008 and 23 percent in 2006 and 2004, according to exit polls. On the other hand, 2004 was a presidential election, 2006 was a strong year for Democrats, and 2008 obviously featured the first African-American presidential nominee. If Republicans are enthused and Democrats aren’t, it’s not unthinkable that African-Americans will make up less than 23 percent of the electorate.

Okay, the moment has passed. We can now return to cheap jokes about the site that touted Research 2000 for years doubting anybody else’s poll results.

Tags: Martin O'Malley , Robert Ehrlich

Hey, Wasn’t Martin O’Malley Supposed to be a Frontrunner?


The last time Maryland’s Martin O’Malley led a poll over Republican former governor Bob Ehrlich was May 4. There have been three polls since then, including this one out from Rasmussen this morning:

The race for governor of Maryland remains a close one, with incumbent Democrat Martin O’Malley and Republican challenger Bob Ehrlich in a virtual tie again this month.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Maryland finds Ehrlich with 47% support to O’Malley’s 46%. Two percent (2%) prefer some other candidate, and five percent (5%) remain undecided.

Ehrlich’s leads are tiny, and I think he’ll have to get over voter skepticism that another term for him would be a rerun of the years from 2002 to 2006, when his agenda was largely stymied by a heavily Democratic state legislature. On the other hand, Marylanders can see what all-Democratic governance is getting them now . . .

Tags: Bob Ehrlich , Martin O'Malley

Is Maryland’s Governor’s Race a Toss-Up Yet?


The Answer: 1, 0, 0.

The Question: What is the lead of incumbent Maryland governor Martin O’Malley over his Republican challenger, former governor Bob Ehrlich, in percentage points, among likely voters in the last three polls?

(When you saw 1-0-0, you were expecting a World Cup joke, weren’t you?)

Tags: Bob Ehrlich , Martin O'Malley

In Maryland, Ehrlich Tied With O’Malley Among Those Certain to Vote


The Washington Post polls registered voters in Maryland, and finds incumbent Democratic governor Martin O’Malley ahead of former governor Robert Ehrlich, 49 percent to 41 percent.

While I think Ehrlich has an uphill climb, this is a fairly encouraging poll for him. For starters,

among those who say they are certain to vote in November, the race is a dead heat, with both candidates drawing 47 percent . . . The poll reveals several potential advantages for Ehrlich, who lost to O’Malley four years ago, 53 to 46 percent. Ehrlich has the edge in voter trust on the state budget and taxes, and when it comes to the top issue, the economy, 43 percent trust the former governor to do a better job, 39 percent the current one. More than half of voters say the state is on the wrong track, and nearly half say O’Malley has not accomplished much in the top job.

Also, 37 percent declare Ehrlich a strong leader, and only 35 percent say the same for O’Malley.

The independent vote means less than usual in such a heavily Democratic state, but the poll also found:

One opening for Ehrlich is among independents, a group he is targeting heavily. When the Republican was victorious in 2002, he won the group by 11 percentage points. When he lost four years later, his margin was sliced to two, according to an exit poll. At the outset of this year’s race, Ehrlich is winning by 15 percentage points among independent voters.

But I suspect a lot of Ehrlich supporters would say his previous term as governor was something of a disappointment, with many of his ideas stymied by a heavily Democratic legislature. (Today the Maryland House of Delegates has 104 Democrats, 36 Republicans, and one Independent; the Maryland State Senate has 33 Democrats and 14 Republicans.) If Ehrlich is going to win this race, he needs a way to persuade the electorate that he can deliver more than gridlock. Of course, when a Democratic governor and Democratic legislature as passing laws that the voters don’t like, gridlock may be preferable.

Tags: Martin O'Malley , Robert Ehrlich

Can Robert Ehrlich Win Again?


Robert Ehrlich’s bid to return to the governor’s mansion in Maryland is one of those races that look particularly tough to assess.

Few GOP wins in 2002 were less expected that Ehrlich’s win in the Free State; in hindsight, it could be attributed to his ability as a better-than-average GOP candidate, a particularly weak competitor in Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and a strong GOP wave that year. (Somewhere at the RNC, someone’s asking, “Hey, doesn’t Ehrlich’s running mate deserve more credit?”) The state legislature remained heavily Democratic, and as governor, Ehrlich found much of his agenda blocked. The Washington Post surprised many by endorsing Ehrlich in 2006, but by then, his reelection bid already appeared doomed.

The Democrat who beat him, Martin O’Malley, ran with the political wind at his back and with a platform full of promises. The average Marylander is not better off now than he was four years ago. Yes, it’s an extraordinarily Democratic state, and O’Malley’s 46 percent approval rating looks good compared with a lot of other Democratic incumbents. But this seems like a tough environment to be running on “four more years of the same.”

Can Ehrlich win? Rasmussen puts him within three. This morning the Post seems particularly underwhelmed by both candidates for their lack of specifics in addressing the state’s “staggering short- and long-term economic problems.” Phrases like that suggest that no endorsement is a real possibility.

Tags: Martin O'Malley , Robert Ehrlich

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