Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley is struggling to poll above two percent in New Hampshire — the nation’s first primary state — but he presented a confident front at a speech with Dartmouth students and Upper Valley residents on Friday.
“I know when a man stands before you with two percent national name recognition and tells you he’s running for president and it’s going well, that there’s a fine line between delusion and imagination,” O’Malley said on Friday.
Judging by his Dartmouth following on social media, O’Malley’s support is not negligible at the College, where many Maryland natives have rallied behind his campaign.
“Students will start to see that he actually cares and wants to talk to them, and that’s when they’ll start to take him more seriously as a candidate,” Chris Quintero ’18 said.
Quintero, a Maryland native who served as an intern with O’Malley’s campaign over the summer and currently organizes for the O’Malley campaign at the College, said he began supporting the former governor as soon as he launched his campaign.
O’Malley was introduced on Friday by Sandra Aka ’19, another Maryland resident and supporter of O’Malley’s platform.
Aka said O’Malley’s work on immigration reform — particularly the passage of the DREAM Act — same-sex marriage legalization and his efforts to raise the minimum wage were major factors in her support. She will vote for O’Malley in the New Hampshire primary, she said.
“I think that everyone should get to know him and get to know his policies and make the right decision,” she said.
Other students at the event expressed concern about O’Malley’s lack of popular support.
“My biggest concern is just that already the Democratic base is already split between more of the far left and more of the establishment, and adding more of that might make it a weaker party,” Matt Brown ’19 said.
At 156 members, the Dartmouth for O’Malley Facebook group has more members than the Dartmouth for Hillary Clinton group — which has 104 members — but is substantially behind the Dartmouth Students and Staff for Bernie group, which has 293 members.
The O’Malley campaign is relying on outreach to students to build support in New Hampshire, the campaign’s state director John Bivona said.
O’Malley has positioned himself to the left of frontrunner Hillary Clinton, but he has not gone as far as self-described “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who is polling tightly with Clinton both in individual states — including New Hampshire — and has started to close the gap in national polls.
After making brief remarks on Friday at the Top of the Hop, O’Malley took several questions from students and community members, taking stances on issues like same-sex marriage, East Asian trade policy, immigration, the Black Lives Matter movement, criminal justice reform and economic inequality.
“I really liked everything that he was saying. I even had a paper due, and I was like ‘It doesn’t matter,’” Jovanay Carter ’19 said. “I just think that he’s addressing important issues, something that a lot of people don’t.”
Carter signed up to intern with the O’Malley campaign following the event.
O’Malley called for a greater respect between police and communities following police violence directed at African-Americans, including the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland.
“Just like there’s not a trade-off between liberty and security, there shouldn’t be a trade-off between violent crime and courteous and professional police,” he said. “We should be able to do both of these things at the same time.”
O’Malley emphasized income inequality, and said that it has become challenging for American parents to pass the American dream to their children. He advocated for increased unionization and collective bargaining rights as a solution to some wage issues and also discussed his creation of a living wage in Maryland, as well as other workers’ rights programs like increased parental leave programs.
Fixing problems with the income distribution in the U.S. could be challenging, but that struggle will be worth the effort, O’Malley said.
“You know, I kind of like tough fights,” he said. “I think a tough fight is a way of telling us we’re fighting for something worth saving. Our children’s future is worth saving. Our country is worth saving. Our planet is worth saving.”
O’Malley also called for new programs to curb climate change, including increased use of nuclear power, wind technology and other renewable energy sources. He emphasized his opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a program that Sanders and Clinton have also opposed.
The first debate in the Democratic primary was held last Tuesday, and O’Malley — who had counted on the debates to increase awareness of his campaign — said he was unhappy with moderator Anderson Cooper’s decision to allocate roughly four-fifths of the questions asked to Sanders and Clinton, the two leading candidates. Clinton spoke for roughly 31 minutes, Sanders spoke for 28 and O’Malley spoke for about 18, according to The New York Times. He still spoke more than former senator Jim Webb (D-Virginia) and former Rhode Island governor and senator Lincoln Chafee (D-Rhode Island), who spoke for 15.5 and nine minutes, respectively.
“Maybe next time it’ll be a little more equal,” O’Malley said.
The debates will be a major platform for the campaign to advertise its message to voters, Bivona said.
“Once people see these debates, they’re going to see him as a very viable candidate.” Quintero said.
O’Malley’s campaign will rely heavily on individual outreach to voters and retail — or local, small-scale — politics, particularly in New Hampshire, which has a small population, Bivona said.
“[New Hampshire voters have] seen campaigns up close, so your message definitely has to be tighter,” he said. “Your conversations with folks here in New Hampshire, you can’t just talk at 30,000 feet. You really have to be prepared to answer the questions about the issues that they care about.”
Young voters — particularly at New Hampshire’s colleges and universities — will be key to success in the state, Bivona said.
“You rarely ever see someone under the age of 40 who doesn’t believe that the economy should work for everyone, doesn’t believe that climate change isn’t an issue that we really need to deal with as a country and doesn’t believe that [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] communities shouldn’t have the same rights to marriage as everybody else,” he said.
Meeting in small groups with voters and students will remain a key portion of O’Malley’s platform in both New Hampshire and Iowa, the first state to hold a caucus for the presidential primary next February, he said.
“We have organizers across the state who spent the summer doing one-on-one meetings with activists and volunteers, talking to them about the governor’s record and the race in general,” Bivona said.
Campaign staff in the Upper Valley region have held frequent meetings with students at Dartmouth to help organize for O’Malley, Quintero said.
Although initially only a small group of students were interested in assisting the campaign, that group has grown.
Many Maryland students are also supporters of O’Malley, citing his work in their home state.
“He has 15 years of actual executive experience, of actually getting these progressive policies done and implemented.” Quintero said.
Speaking Friday, O’Malley said he will focus on his record to attract votes, rather than his speaking abilities.
“I’m not good at giving lofty speeches, and I’m bad at taking advice from pollsters,” he said. “But in 15 years of executive experience as a big city mayor — stepping up to offer to lead what had become at that time our most violent, addicted and abandoned city in America, and turn that around — and then as governor, I followed that formula — actions, not words.”
O’Malley also spoke at the College last May, a day after announcing his presidential campaign.