So far, that argument hasn’t resonated with many voters. O’Malley remains mired in the single digits in national polls as well as those from Iowa and New Hampshire. Even Democrats in O’Malley’s home state of Maryland are more inclined to support Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
O’Malley’s campaign is banking on a breakout moment on Tuesday night, as voters across the country get their first chance to size up all five candidates seeking the Democratic nomination.
His eight-year tenure as governor gives him plenty of progressive policy victories to crow about. During his tenure, the state raised the minimum wage, legalized same-sex marriage, adopted new gun-control measures, repealed the death penalty, pumped record amounts of money into education and took several steps to make life easier for undocumented immigrants.
O’Malley argues that while other candidates talk about the progressive policies they would pursue, he’s already demonstrated that he can put them in place. (Usually left unmentioned is that the fact that Democrats control both chambers of the Maryland legislature, making it a friendlier environment for a Democratic chief executive than Congress is these days.)
And O’Malley’s record as mayor of Baltimore came under a great deal of scrutiny early in his presidential campaign.
As mayor, he ushered in an era of zero-tolerance policing in the city. O’Malley argues the aggressive approach helped drive down crime. His critics have said it bred distrust between police and the community and contributed to the discontent that surfaced during the rioting earlier this year.
There’s something else that sets O’Malley apart on the campaign trail: His guitar. The former governor has long had a side career as the frontman for O’Malley’s March, a Celtic rock band. At campaign stops, it’s not unusual for O’Malley to play a song after he delivers remarks.
At age 52, O’Malley is also the youngest candidate in the Democratic field. A father of four, he is married to a district court judge in Baltimore.
Despite his low standing in the polls, O’Malley comes across as a happy warrior as he stumps across the early nominating states. One reason for his optimism dates back to the 1984, when he worked as a young organizer for the presidential campaign of Gary Hart.
Hart barely registered in the polls during the summer before the voting began. He exceeded expectations in Iowa, scored an upset in New Hampshire and went on to give former vice president Walter Mondale a serious challenge for the nomination.
As O’Malley takes the stage Tuesday, he is hoping history will repeat itself -- and then some.