And during the same stretch, O’Malley, as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, will be judged on his efforts to promote gubernatorial candidates in a dozen states around the country.
“By any measure, he’s got to be one of the three or four top rising stars in the party right now, so I think all of these things matter in terms of building a national following,” said Joe Trippi, a longtime Democratic consultant who ran former Vermont governor Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign for the presidential nomination. Trippi lives in Maryland.
As he travels the country, the impression O’Malley leaves with party activists in key states also will matter if he plans to seek national office in 2016, as many suspect.
In a colorful speech to Democrats in New Hampshire on Saturday, he both talked up the need to keep the governorship there in Democratic hands and took aim at Republicans, accusing the “constipation Congress” of hindering President Obama’s job-creation efforts.
While the year holds promise for O’Malley, it also carries substantial risks, both for his legacy and for any political ambitions he might harbor beyond Maryland.
Voters in no state have ever approved a ballot measure allowing same-sex marriage. Leading the charge in the nation’s first would bring O’Malley a wave of national attention and secure part of his record in Maryland.
On the other hand, falling short in one of the nation’s bluest states would be an embarrassment, particularly in a year when Obama and others have brought so much attention to the issue.
O’Malley’s standing also will be shaped in part by how fellow Democrats do on the ballot in a year that he acknowledges is a tough one for some of his party’s candidates for governor. A better-than-expected showing would impress Democratic donors and activists, whose support could be crucial down the road. But a poor showing could haunt him like a bad note in a personnel file.
In an interview, O’Malley acknowledged he has “a very busy summer” ahead with much to juggle, including his stewardship of Maryland.
“All of these thing are coming together at one time, and you do the best you can with the hours you have,” he said. “I feel very committed to both the marriage equality referendum and the Dream Act [immigrant tuition] referendum. They’re evidence our state is moving forward.”
Between now and November, O’Malley also is expected to continue to press Obama’s case on the Sunday talk show circuit, and he said raising money for the president’s reelection will be a priority.
Challenges at home
The campaign with the most potential to shape O’Malley’s legacy is one back home.