He’s even bringing his band. O’Malley’s March, the Celtic rock group for which he’s lead singer, has booked two late-night gigs at local bars.
His biggest challenge this week may be to remember that, at this year’s convention, he is a supporting act and not the headliner.
Party conventions have long been target-rich environments for politicians eyeing future presidential races, and O’Malley is among the Democrats widely assumed to be looking at 2016. Thousands of party activists, key donors and political journalists will be on hand for the week.
That provides ample opportunities to make good impressions, provided you don’t overlook the task at hand: in this case, helping President Obama get re-elected.
“Having this national platform is a huge opportunity,” said Mo Elleithee, a veteran Democratic strategist. “You can do some good work to set yourself up for down the road, so long as you don’t look like that’s why you’re there.”
O’Malley’s aim this week is far different than other prominent Democrats from the region. Former Virginia governor and DNC chairman Timothy M. Kaine, who is seeking a U.S. Senate seat this year, plans to spend only one day in Charlotte.
Republicans have sought to use Kaine’s closeness to Obama as a weapon, particularly his support for the controversial health-care and stimulus laws. But aides say Kaine — who has not tried to distance himself from Obama — is cutting his stay short for a more practical reason: He wants to head back home to resume campaigning.
While in Charlotte, Kaine plans to spend most of his time with the Virginia delegation.
Besides Iowa, O’Malley is also scheduled to speak to delegations from states including Ohio, Texas, Florida, Nevada — and, of course, Maryland.
His name is frequently mentioned on lists of potential 2016 Democratic candidates for president, along with the likes of Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
For politicians with national ambitions, Elleithee cited New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s performance at last week’s Republican National Convention as a model of what to avoid, criticizing his prime-time speech as more focused on Christie than Mitt Romney.
Obama is perhaps the best-known example of a politician greatly helped by his convention performance. He was a little-known senator from Illinois in 2004 when he gave a keynote address that electrified Democrats.
O’Malley’s national profile began to rise after his ascension in late 2010 to chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, a group that seeks to help fellow party members get elected around the country. The post has given O’Malley reason to travel the country and a perch from which to appear on national talk shows.