Most Democrats are sitting on their hands waiting for Hillary Clinton to announce she is running for president so they can get to work electing the first woman to the White House. Most, but not all.
Last weekend Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley began to lay out his vision for the future as he stepped down as chairman of the National Governor's Association. Plotting a run for president against the prohibitive favorite may seem silly, but it makes sense for O'Malley to get in. He doesn't have much to lose. Here are four reasons O'Malley should run for president even if Hillary Clinton decides to get in.
- He just might win. Hillary Clinton was supposed to be the Democratic nominee in 2008, but about half of the Democratic voters across the country had something different in mind. They wanted Barack Obama, who represented a new course for the country, not a throwback. Anything can happen in a presidential campaign. Clinton could make a mistake or the political winds could shift. O'Malley won't know if he can win if he doesn't run.
- Democrats deserve a discussion about the direction of the country. The candidates should be tested on their national security plans and how they will expand prosperity to more citizens and protect the environment. Having this conversation in the primaries will empower the future nominee in the general election. If Hillary ran alone, who would she debate? Herself?
- Clinton might choose him to help govern. In 2004, John Edwards proved to be pretty popular among Democrats while running against John Kerry for the nomination. If O'Malley catches on but falls short, a good campaign might prove him worthy of the vice presidential nomination. (But count me among the Democrats who would not prefer a ticket with two candidates from safe Democratic states on the East Coast. It would be nice to have a westerner on the ticket, but O'Malley might prove me wrong.) Even if he doesn't make the national ticket, he might have enough popular support to be in the new president's cabinet.
- A strong run that falls short could set O'Malley up for the 2020 presidential nomination. This strategy hasn't worked for any Democrat in the modern era, but this is a time for breaking barriers. Unlike the Republicans, no non-incumbent president or vice president who won the Democratic nomination since Adlai Stevenson in 1956 had previously run for president. However, Hillary Clinton must break that trend to win the nomination in 2016, so O'Malley could be next.
The trick for O'Malley is to campaign vigorously for the office without banging up the probable frontrunner too much. The governor has a bright future in the Democratic Party and a knock-down bare knuckle fight wouldn't serve him or Clinton well. He should talk about his vision and leave the dirt digging to the Republicans who will surely be looking to derail Clinton.
Ultimately, there's no reason for O'Malley to sit this one out. He should run. What's the worst thing that could happen? (Famous last words!)
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