According to multiple reports Martin O’Malley, the former Governor of Maryland, has been laying the groundwork to run for President. This flies in the face of the inevitability of Hillary Clinton. It is well-known by political followers that Clinton is viewed warily by the party’s progressive base. Her coziness to big business and entrenched political interests at a time when the party is turning increasingly populist has the progressive wing of the party pining for somebody else.
Enter O’Malley. During his two terms as Governor O’Malley took many liberal actions, he raised taxes on the wealthy (and everybody else), pushed through same-sex marriage, decriminalized marijuana and repealed the death penalty. Further, he spent lavishly on education.
O’Malley’s opening is without Elizabbeth Warren in the race he can try to gobble up progressives eager to vote for somebody else but Hillary in the primary. But, he is a technocrat like Clinton and seems to lack the ability to light a fire in progressives bellies.
Still, O’Malley represents a clear danger to Clinton. While the GOP field will be muddled with moderates and conservatives outlining various policy ideas and views the Democratic field will feature two visions; the Clinton vision of restrained progressivism (moderation) and O’Malley’s (progressivism). The more O’Malley reminds the party faithful just how moderate Hillary is on issues the base loves the harder it will be for her to connect with them before the general election.
O’Malley has made clear he will not attack Clinton personally. After all, he avoided attacking her over the email scandals and more importantly telegraphed his line of attack when he said he was “tired of political dynasties.” Much as Bush is vulnerable to such an attack on the right the same is true for Clinton on the left. This gets even worse if a young Republicans faces her in the general highlighting not just an ideological divide but a generational divide between Clinton and the party base (young, single women, minorities).
O’Malley has little chance of winning the nomination. But, he can ultimately aid Republicans by highlighting Clinton’s key differences with her party and by extension further fuel the Democratic “soul-searching” after the Obama era.
Addendum: A new set of polls highlights just how vulnerable Clinton is, especially when pitted against younger Republican challengers.