Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, whose 2016 presidential ambitions have been written off by many Washington pundits, pushed back Thursday against the notion that Hillary Rodham Clinton is the inevitable Democratic nominee.

“People inside the Beltway are usually the last people to know when something is happening in Iowa or in New Hampshire,” O’Malley said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” suggesting that he believes he would get a close look from party activists if he decides to move forward with a bid.

“People in those early states take their vote very, very seriously,” O’Malley said. “They consider themselves to be the talent scouts, if you will, in making that first decision about what our choices are.”

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Pressed about a New York Times story suggesting that Democrats see no alternatives to Clinton, O’Malley, who’s barely registered in early polling, conceded “maybe that’s the way it is today.”

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“But our history as a party is one of always wanting to have a robust discussion about the better choices that will give our kids a better future,” he said. “Most years, there’s the inevitable frontrunner, and that inevitable frontrunner is inevitable right up until he or she is no longer inevitable.”

He added: “I think that any of us in the Democratic party who feel we have a track record  of executive experience, getting things done, and a better framework for the future, should offer ourselves in service, and then we should trust the good judgment and the intelligence of the American people.”

O’Malley has said he plans to make a decision by this spring on whether to move forward with a White House bid. He is maintaining a travel schedule consistent with that of a serious candidate. In recent weeks, O’Malley has visited South Carolina and New Hampshire. Next week he plans to be in Iowa.

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