The Most Likely Next President Could Also Be Martin O'Malley: Read My Lips
Things move fast in politics these days. Just as a new kernel of conventional wisdom is taking hold -- that Hillary Clinton, Biden-free and post-Benghazi, is now a lock for the White House -- a counter-narrative emerges: Martin O'Malley has it in the bag.
Everything is falling into place for the former Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor. He shot up to 5 percent this week in polls of Democrats in Iowa (the crucially important kickoff caucus state) and North Carolina (a state), meaning he's opening a comfortable lead on Lawrence Lessig. He earned an interview with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. And Donald Trump hasn't tweeted O'Malley's name since Oct. 13, so imagine how frightened the Donald must be.
To be sure, O'Malley's stroll to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue still faces some obstacles. He's polling at about 0.5 percent among Democrats nationally, making him the party's own Rick Santorum. The $1 million in his campaign bank account wouldn't even merit a thank-you note if it were donated to the Jeb Bush super-PAC. O'Malley's hometown paper says he's "failed to catch fire." Iowa could choose Bernie Sanders instead of him. O'Malley's wife could vote for Hillary. And if Ben Carson turns out to be his Republican opponent, the Johns Hopkins vote could be up for grabs.
But the last few weeks have been good to O'Malley. He remembered all his lines at the Democratic debate, drew some notice at the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner and intimidated Vice President Joe Biden into early retirement.
Here's a look at some of the advantages O'Malley enjoys:
Webb and Chafee are no longer sucking up all the oxygen. With their easy humor and crackling deliveries, the former senator from somewhere and former governor from wherever had crowded out O'Malley's message. Their departures from the Democratic race leave O'Malley with only the speed bumps of Clinton and Sanders.
O'Malley plays guitar. Every single Democratic president since Jimmy Carter has performed music for the American public. Sure, there have been only two of them. But while Bill Clinton played an instrument, and Barack Obama occasionally shows he can sing on-key, O'Malley can do both at the same time. That means he could hold his own in a Battle of the Bands against Mike Huckabee.
Clinton and Sanders are sure to self-destruct. More Clinton records from her time as first lady could still be released. Sanders is a socialist, and at some point people are going to Google what that means.
O'Malley studied Spanish in high school. All campaigns tweet in Spanish. O'Malley might actually understand it.
He's just got to make it to April 26. Maryland holds its primary that day, along with neighbors Delaware and Pennsylvania, so if O'Malley has a favorite-son firewall, this will be it. All he has to do is survive losses in Iowa, New Hampshire and 33 other states before that big day arrives.
Given the fluidity and pace of the news cycle, this column shouldn't be read as a prediction of events to come. It's merely a snapshot in time -- specifically, 6:44 p.m. on Oct. 29. O'Malley's lock on the presidency could disappear as quickly as Bobby Jindal. In fact, by the time you read this column, its entire premise could be wholly undermined by new facts on the ground, such as the looming Lessig boomlet.
So, on second thought, never mind.
"I got a lot of really cool things that I could do other than sit around, being miserable, listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them.'' - Jeb Bush
Top 10 Cool Things Jeb Bush Could Be Doing:
- 10. TP the Trump Tower
- 9. Road trip to Andover to find the bong he hid in the floorboards of his dorm room
- 7. Paint self-portrait in the bathtub for the Bush Art Museum
- 6. A scenic train ride -- the slower, the better
- 5. Try out that Jeb! koozie
- 4. Tour Europe, bypassing France
- 3. Give undivided attention to fantasy football, at last
- 2. Swap Lehman Brothers war stories with John Kasich
- 1. Hang out in Oregon to see if Julianna Snow's family needs expert advice
What was so wrong with CNBC's handling of the Republican presidential debate? Besides having Jim Cramer up there, that is. Here's a partial recap, up to the moment one of the candidates decided to go on offense -- against the referees.
- What is your biggest weakness? Not a bad question, especially for a stage full of people who think they have none.
- Trump, is yours "a comic-book version of a presidential campaign?" Come on -- does anyone really think this isn't a fair question (besides Trump)?
- How do you, Trump and Carson, square your tax-policy numbers? They don't add up. Not a bad question.
- How do you, Fiorina, believe you can shrink the U.S. tax code from 70,000-some pages to three? Not a bad question.
- How do you, Rubio, respond to the criticisms leveled at you by your home-state newspaper? Even Bush thought this was OK. (Note: Of course Bush would. Also note: It wasn't the moderators' assertions he was being asked to address.)
- How do you, Bush, explain the inability to run an effective campaign as the presumed front-runner when you're aiming to run the country -- and what was with that bratty "I've got better things to do" comment? Not bad questions.
- How do you, Cruz, justify politicizing the central bank? Not a bad question, especially for an idea that hearkens back to Andrew Jackson-style antagonism toward the institution. Some politicians these days seem to want to drag us back to the 1950s. You want to take us back to the 1830s.
- How do you, Fiorina, reconcile your failure to lead a company with your aspirations to lead an entire nation? Not a bad question.
- How do you, Cruz, justify your opposition to compromise legislation that gives the U.S. a stable spending plan for the next two years? Totally fair, and worthy of Paul, too.
And that's when the tide turned, when Cruz had a little Howard Dean moment. This is not a "cage match," he cried. How dare you ask this stuff?
First it was his scholastic performance in college. Now it's his stock-picking record. But if Donald Trump is going to provide hard proof of his most boastful claims, he might as well start with the golf.
"Did I ever tell you -- and nobody knows this -- that I have won 18 club championships? Eighteen club championships. I never tell anybody that."
That was said by Trump, according to notes that David Granger, editor in chief of Esquire, says he took down during a phone call with Trump a few years ago. Granger describes the call in an editor's note in the latest edition of the magazine.
Trump had contacted Granger to complain about something written about him on Esquire's website. The two men knew each other, having played golf before. During the call, according to Granger's account, Trump came up with an idea for "a good piece about me."
"I'll tell you what," Trump said, according to Granger's notes. "We can do an article about golf. I'll help you with your hitch. I'll fix your golf game. My handicap is down to a one now. Did I tell you that? I keep getting older and I keep getting better."
The Washington Post's Ben Terris took a swing at this topic in a September article headlined, "Does Donald Trump cheat at golf?" The article's anecdotes suggested the answer is something other than a clean "no."
Another Post story, on the mutual dislike of Trump and Jeb Bush, discussed how Trump "cultivated ties to Bush allies in Tallahassee" by "inviting them to play golf or to dine with him in Manhattan or South Florida."
Trump said he shot an impressive 72 during one outing, with a former Florida House speaker, Will Weatherford. Weatherford, who is supporting Bush for president, told the Post that he didn't remember Trump achieving that score.
Should Trump win the nomination, he might heed the advice Theodore Roosevelt gave to William Howard Taft during the 1908 race about the importance of appearances: "photographs on horseback, yes; tennis, no. And golf is fatal."
(“Read My Lips” is a column dedicated to the proposition that men and women in a position of power, or the pursuit of it, will say or do things for which they will be sorry.)