While neither Webb nor O’Malley have officially entered the 2016 race for the White House, both sounded very much like candidates. Webb promised that we would be coming back to Iowa often and getting around the entire state, and O’Malley told reporters that Democrats would benefit from competition.
“It would be an extreme poverty indeed if there were only one person willing to compete for our party’s nomination,” O’Malley said.
O’Malley and Webb covered some of the same ground in their remarks, but they offered a contrast in styles.
Webb was the more conversational, drawing laughter when he relayed to the crowd of more than 250 people that he had arrived in Iowa on Thursday and that his luggage had arrived Friday. O’Malley gave the more polished address, drawing repeated bursts of applause, with the loudest coming in response to his contention that it should be easier for labor unions to organize. The event was held in a United Automobile Workers hall.
Webb said the country’s priorities should include restoring “economic fairness,” reshaping national security policy and improving “basic governance” so that the president and Congress can work together and the major political parties can cooperate.
“Money is ruining our political process,” he told the audience, which dined on pork chops and mashed potatoes at rows of tables decorated with helium balloons in the shape of American flags.
Webb said he is someone who makes clear where he stands, citing as an example his early opposition to the Iraq war.
His stance provides a contrast with Clinton, who as a U.S. senator voted in 2002 to authorize military action. In his remarks, Webb made no mention of Clinton by name — unlike another potential Democratic candidate, Lincoln Chafee, a former U.S. senator and governor from Rhode Island, who said in an interview this week said Clinton’s Iraq vote should disqualify her from being commander in chief.
Webb told the audience that he believes the American Dream is “unique” and held up his wife, who was born in Vietnam, as an example of someone living it.
O’Malley lamented declining wages in the country and urged Democrats to work with him to “make the Dream come true again” by increasing the minimum wage, expanding Social Security benefits and taking other steps to bolster the middle class.
As he has in other recent appearances, O’Malley called for Wall Street reforms.
“Do you mean to tell me that we can pay record bonuses on Wall Street but we cannot eradicate childhood hunger?” he asked the audience. “I don’t buy it, and neither should you.”
In an interview that aired earlier Friday on MSNBC, O’Malley said Democrats were partly to blame for Wall Street regulations that are too lax.
“There are more repercussions for a person being a chronic speeding violator in our country than there is for a big bank being a chronic violator of (Security and Exchange Commission) rules,” he said.
“I think the SEC has been pretty feckless when it comes to reining in reckless behavior on Wall Street,” O’Malley told MSNBC’s Ari Melber. “We can’t expect Wall Street to police itself. That’s why we have a federal government.”
O’Malley was scheduled to leave Iowa on Friday night to head to New York, where on Saturday he is addressing at a conference of the National Action Network, a group led by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Webb has several more events scheduled in Iowa on Saturday and Sunday.