Martin O’Malley’s march towards the White House in 2016

Martin O'Malley (AP Photo / Patrick Semansky)
The man who may be the next president of the United States after either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, was most recently belting up a storm of Irish music in the White House for the St Patrick’s Day celebration.

He claims he wasn’t measuring the drapes, but he was overawed by warming up in the East Room with all its historic connections

Martin O’Malley, 48, Maryland’s popular second term governor, had reformed his band, O’Malley’s March, for the special occasion.

Sitting over a pint of Guinness in Fitzpatrick’s in Midtown Manhattan this week, O’Malley told me how the White House gig had come about.

Because the White House celebration had to be moved past St. Patrick's Day this year, to Tuesday, March 20, the organizers suddenly found themselves without a band.

Hearing this, the Democratic governor of Maryland decided to lend a hand, or a guitar, and suddenly he was playing for 600 VIPs and the President.

If it was an audition for White House troubadour, O’Malley might not get the job. But the aim may be much higher.

When the talk turns to the presidential race in 2016, as inevitably it will when the November election is past, you can expect to hear a lot more about Martin O’Malley.

Already the buzz is out on the telegenic governor with the Kennedy-type looks and appeal and Irish roots in Mayo.
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On February 3 of this year, The New York Times rated O’Malley, now head of the Democratic Governors Association, in the top three of future Democratic presidential candidates along with Hillary Clinton and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Compared with his fellow governors, Mr. O’Malley may be a more natural progressive fighter,” The Times wrote. 

“A former Baltimore mayor, he could point to Maryland’s schools, among the best in the nation, and his willingness to fight for tax increases and cut other parts of government to finance education.”
Chris Cilliza’s influential column “The Fix” in The Washington Post rates O’Malley the number two contender after Cuomo for 2016.

It is heady stuff, but O’Malley is not buying it, at least not yet.

“Let’s see what they are saying by the end of this year, or the end of next year about where people stand,” he says. “Things can change awful fast in this business.”

O’Malley talks about the incredible fundraising that candidates for president have to undergo. By 2016 it may be a billion dollar pricetag to enter the race and run. 

“I remember when raising $30,000 to run for the State Senate was a huge task,” he laughs.
O’Malley also knows how fickle political winds can be.

As we spoke he was under pressure back home after the collapse of budget negotiations at the last moment. One columnist wrote that this happened because O’Malley was spending too much time on the national stage.

O’Malley laughs that criticism off. Latest polls show him in the low to mid fifties in approval ratings in his home state, a figure governors most anywhere would be envious of.

For the next six months O’Malley will be working night and day to elect Democratic governors and re-elect President Obama.

He says the race with Romney will be close, only likely to break Obama’s way in the last few weeks when people really focus on it.

Then it will be on to January, the inauguration of the next president and the beginning of the long march to 2016. My guess is O’Malley’s march will have only begun then.

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