Democratic presidential hopeful Gary Hart fields a question during a news conference in Denver, Col., in 1987. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Gary Hart, the presidential hopeful for whom Martin O’Malley toiled more than 30 years ago, plans to support the former Maryland governor if he moves forward with a 2016 White House bid, Hart said Wednesday.

“I’m obliged to, if nothing else, because he supported me,” Hart said in an interview, adding that “it would be helpful to have generational change.”

O’Malley, 52, has said he will decide by the end of next month whether he will challenge Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination. He is 15 years younger than Clinton, the former secretary of state, New York senator and first lady.

“Times change,” said Hart, 78, a former Colorado senator. “The next decade is going to be a different world than the Clinton years.”

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O’Malley cut his teeth in politics working in Iowa for Hart’s campaign in advance of the 1984 caucuses. Much like O’Malley, Hart was barely registering in the polls in the early stages of a race in which he was pitted against a formidable frontrunner: Walter Mondale, the former vice president.

After a better-than-expected second place finish in Iowa, Hart went on to win the New Hampshire primary and became the chief rival to Mondale for the Democratic nomination, eventually falling short. (A second Hart presidential bid in 1988 was undermined by scandal.)

Hart said he “absolutely” sees a path to the nomination for O’Malley, though he allowed that at this stage, it appears “very unlikely.”

“But it was for me, too,” Hart was quick to add.

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Hart can recount tales from O'Malley's time as a young staffer on the campaign trail, including one in which he recalls buying O’Malley his first “legal beer” after a milestone birthday. “That may or may not be true, but it makes for a great story,” Hart, who maintains a friendship with O'Malley, said Wednesday.

The two men talk about once every two months and e-mail about once every two weeks, Hart said. He said he has no inside information about whether O’Malley is going to make a 2016 presidential bid, but he said: “If I had to guess, I’d guess he’s going to give it a try.”

O’Malley’s travel schedule certainly suggests that is the case.

He is spending time this week in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Palo Alto, meeting with donors.

O’Malley is scheduled to appear in South Carolina, an early nominating state, on Saturday at the state's Democratic convention.

And he has a trip planned next week to England and Ireland, where he will deliver speeches on data-driven government, renewable energy and cyber security, aides said.

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