Martin O’Malley’s underdog presidential campaign got off to a rough start Saturday morning.
A video introduction intended to pump up the crowd waiting in the sweltering heat atop Baltimore’s Federal Hill didn’t work; the audio faded in and out before failing entirely.
The crowd’s chant of “O’Malley! O’Malley!” sputtered to a halt as the video played soundlessly on, supporters glancing awkwardly around.
The former Democratic governor initially received a warm reception nonetheless when he took the stage to deliver a tongue-lashing to the “one percent.”
“Main street crumbles while Wall Street soars!” O’Malley said. He vowed to raise the minimum wage and protect collective bargaining rights in order to build an economy that “measures success by the growing prosperity and security of our people – all our people.”
But the announcement was marred by a steady stream of protesters nearby. They shouted about police brutality and economic injustice. “700,000 arrests under your watch, O’Malley!” one man shouted. Others blew whistles during his speech. “Oh, grow up,” one O’Malley supporter muttered angrily.
‘Main street crumbles while Wall Street soars!’
— Martin O’Malley
O’Malley, the third Democratic candidate to enter the race, is considered by some a potential challenger to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, but he has an uphill climb to the nomination. While Clinton sits at 64 percent in the polls, O’Malley hovers at less than one percent. His tenure as governor ended with the shocking defeat of his lieutenant governor, Anthony Brown, defeated by longshot Republican candidate Larry Hogan. And Baltimore’s riots and soaring crime rate cast new doubt on his tenure as that city’s mayor, which ended in 2006.
The protesters at Saturday’s campaign announcement drew a direct line between O’Malley’s policies and what they say as an oppressive police presence in Baltimore today.
“He was brutally murdered!” said Tawanda Jones. Her brother, Tyrone Jones, was killed by Baltimore police during a 2013 traffic stop. She pointed at O’Malley, who was still at the podium. “I blame him!” she said.
O’Malley supporters said it was unfair to blame him for the crisis in Baltimore. “I think he’s removed from it,” says Joe Halperin, a Baltimore resident and a Democrat still making up his mind on the 2016 candidates. He says there needs to be “balance” between community needs and police capabilities. “I think the police need to have some level of intrusiveness to enact the general safety of the population,” he says.
“When he was mayor, crime was down,” says Tony Bridges, a lifelong Baltimore resident who worked for years in O’Malley’s mayoral and governor offices. “Before he was mayor, crime was up to over 300 homicides a year . . . When he ran again [as mayor], crime was on everyone’s mind as well. And he still got reelected.”
Though O’Malley has substantial executive experience, his supporters seem to value his passion more.
#related#“O’Malley has a lot of passion,” says Tony Bridges, a lifelong Baltimore resident who worked for years in O’Malley’s mayoral and governor offices. “He’ll be all in. And when he goes all in for a campaign, I think he’ll definitely get some momentum, and I hope it’ll put him over the top.”
“O’Malley is a new kind of politician,” says Alice McDermott, a famous novelist who took a train up from Bethesda, Maryland to attend the announcement. “Not just younger – I think sort of truer to himself, who hasn’t sort of been battered by political winds.”
Whether that means he can beat the seemingly inevitable Democratic nominee remains to be seen.
“Anything can happen,” McDermott says. “This country is unpredictable, so yeah, I think he has a chance.”
–Brendan Bordelon is a political reporter for National Review.