He asked delegates “to see the faces of your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents. They did not cross an ocean, settle a continent, do hard, backbreaking work so their children and grandchildren could live in a country of less.”
“How much less, do you really think, would be good for our country?” O’Malley asked. “How much less education would be good for our children? How many hungry kids can we no longer afford to feed? Governor Romney, how many fewer college degrees would make us more competitive as a nation?”
Delegates also heard Tuesday night from former Virginia governor Timothy M. Kaine, who is the Democratic nominee in his state’s marquee Senate race. He is competing against fellow former governor George Allen (R) for the right to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D).
As he has throughout the Senate contest, Kaine did not shy away from Obama or his policies Tuesday, praising him for putting “results ahead of ideology.”
Obama “is a tough leader who gets results for the American public,” said Kaine, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Kaine spoke early in the evening, while O’Malley’s nine-minute address began shortly before 10 p.m. His speech came amid a very busy week, which has increased speculation that O’Malley is angling to run for president in 2016. The governor has attended breakfasts in Charlotte hosted by a half-dozen other state delegations and was scheduled to appear before Iowa delegates.
O’Malley’s week got off to a rocky start, with Republicans pouncing on his assessment on a Sunday talk show that the country is not better off than four years ago. In a series of media interviews — and on Twitter — O’Malley has scrambled to clarify his comments.
“We are clearly better off as a country because we’re now creating jobs rather than losing them,” O’Malley said in a tweet Monday.
In Tuesday’s speech, O’Malley did not address the controversy head on, but he made clear that, in his view, Obama has performed mightily under challenging circumstances.
“Facts are facts,” O’Malley said. “No president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Great Depression inherited a worse economy, bigger job losses or deeper problems from his predecessor. But President Obama is moving America forward, not back.”
O’Malley’s speech was laced with several references to Maryland, including a nod to the No. 1 ranking of its schools by the publication Education Week for the past four years.
He also mentioned his parents, who he said “were part of that great generation that won the Second World War.”
“There is a powerful truth at the heart of the American dream,” O’Malley said. “The stronger we make our country, the more she gives back to us.”
In his speech, Kaine said November’s election presents a “real choice” between differing visions of governance, and he portrayed Virginia as a case study in how Democrats can succeed.
Kaine noted that Virginia has become a genuine battleground state, with Obama the first Democrat to win the presidential vote in the commonwealth in more than 40 years. Both parties view the state as vital to determining who will hold the White House come January.
“How did Virginia go from red to purple?” Kaine asked. “We did it with grass-roots excitement and hard work. And we showed Virginians that Democrats get results.”
Allen, who skipped the GOP convention in Tampa last week, has sought to use Kaine’s Democratic National Committee service to tar the Democrat as excessively partisan and wedded to Obama’s more controversial initiatives.
Kaine did not back down, praising Obama’s leadership in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in overhauling health care.