PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Following a speech here Friday night to a dinner gathering of 200 Democrats, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley received a standing ovation and a book called “Outtastatahs: Newcomers’ Adventures in New Hampshire.”
The book, the chairman of the local Democratic party explained, was a token of appreciation for O’Malley’s appearance, given with the assumption that there will be more trips to the nation’s first presidential primary state. O’Malley, who is preparing for a possible 2016 White House bid, was making his fourth visit to New Hampshire over the past year.
His speech was similar to those O’Malley has delivered elsewhere as he travels the country: He touted his accomplishments both as mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland, and he spoke of a need for the country to move beyond “a cynical time of disbelief, a time with more excuses than action, more ideology than cooperation, more fear and anger than progress.”
O’Malley also spoke glowingly of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Gov. Maggie Hassan, two Democratic women being challenged for reelection this year in New Hampshire by Republican men who have faced residency-related issues.
“I can understand why all of these out-of-state men are so attracted to the strong women of the Granite State, but don’t you think they should be running for office in their own states?” O’Malley said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Shaheen’s opponent, Scott Brown, is a former U.S. senator from Massachusetts. Meanwhile, Democrats have questioned whether Walt Havenstein, a businessman running against Hassan, meets the state’s seven-year residency requirement. More recently than that, he reportedly claimed a homestead tax credit on a house he owned in Maryland, a break only available for one’s “principal residence.”
Although O’Malley was well-received, Democrats gathered in this historic seaport city offered a range of opinions on how he would factor into a presidential field that includes Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Clinton, who would start the race as a heavy favorite, has said she will make a decision about whether to run after the first of the year.
“Hillary Clinton just lost a supporter,” Ralph DiBernardo, a retired firefighter from Portsmouth, said shortly after seeing O’Malley speak for the first time.
“I see some Kennedy in him,” said DiBernardo, 71, adding that it would be nice to “have the excitement we had in someone young running our country again.”
Others, however, offered more tranquil assessments.
Steve Dunfey, a former state representative, said O’Malley gave a good speech, but he doesn’t see him having a chance against Clinton.
“No, not at the moment,” said Dunfey, a Portsmouth resident. “You have to be honest about that.”
Dunfey, 57, said he thought O’Malley was more inspiring Friday night than when he caught him recently on a cable television show where O’Malley sounded “like something that came out of a campaign classroom.” Dunfey said he couldn’t remember the network or the show, but added: “It was probably MSNBC. That’s what I usually watch.”
Larry Drake, chairman of the Portsmouth Democrats, said O’Malley’s recounting of his record as mayor and governor was impressive.
“I think people liked what they heard, and he has a lot of energy and a can-do attitude and a solid record of accomplishments,” Drake said. “It’s going to be a challenge for anyone to go in against Hillary. But if he declares, he’s a serious candidate.”
While in Portsmouth on Friday, O’Malley was trailed by a camera crew for C-SPAN’s “Road to the White House” series. He was also the featured guest at a fundraiser for Martha Fuller Clark, a state senator from the Portsmouth area seeking reelection this year.
The Maryland governor has two more full days of political travel ahead of him.
On Saturday, he is scheduled to appear in Nevada, another early presidential nominating state, at a “countdown to early vote” barbecue in Las Vegas. O’Malley plans to join Lucy Flores, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor on the ballot this fall.
On Sunday, O’Malley plans to attend a fundraiser in Los Angeles to benefit his political action committee, which he has been using to maintain a modest-sized political staff and pay for much of his travel and outreach in key states.