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Hillary challenger has, shall we say, room to grow

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WASHINGTON -- Some 316,368 people already have Liked the Facebook page Ready For Hillary 2016, but the good-looking left-winger we've come to see this morning probably isn't one of them.

We are at the unveiling of a policy paper entitled Progressive State Policies to Rebuild the Middle Class at a Washington think-tank, a report that, like the man at the podium, lands with a good-natured thud.

"Let's all join hands and contact the living," the orator begs the languid throng.

This is Martin O'Malley, the 61st governor of the State of Maryland, not to be confused with my old friend and colleague, Martin O'Malley of the CBC, although each of these Martin O'Malleys probably has an equal chance of being elected the 45th president of the United States three years and four months from now.

The most recent polls that I have seen give Hillary Rodham Clinton between 63 and 65 per cent of the vote in any potential nationwide Democratic primary, even though she has yet to declare her candidacy, with Vice-President Joe Biden in second place, 50 points behind. O'Malley of Maryland, whose presidential ambitions are an open secret, attracts the support of about one per cent, which is not to be confused with the One Per Cent that all those Occupy Wall Street protesters were railing against two years ago.

In fact, the "race" for the 2016 Democratic nomination is far less competitive at this stage than the contest to play the young Hillary Rodham in a forthcoming Hollywood movie about her transformation from the president of the Wellesley College Young Republicans into a social-justice-seeking Yale law student and girlfriend of a randy swain from Arkansas.

At last report, actors being considered for the role included Scarlett Johansson, Amanda Seyfried, Emma Stone and Jessica Chastain, the latter of whom told E! last month such speculation "doesn't mean anything." The demurral by Chastain (most recently Maya in Zero Dark Thirty, soon was followed by a similar protestation from Carey Mulligan (most recently Daisy in The Great Gatsby) that she is "not prepared to commit to the role at this time."

"She was foxy in the '70s!" Chastain gushed, before she pretended not to be interested.

(I haven't seen anything on E! about who might star in a biopic about O'Malley, the former mayor of Baltimore, who is 15 years younger than Hillary Rodham Clinton and as handsome as Mitt Romney. Nor can I confirm it was the two-term Maryland governor who, under a photo of the former first lady and secretary of state on the Ready For Hillary 2016 page, offered the comment, "Phony smile.")

At the Center for American Progress this day, the governor is crowing, justifiably, about his record: Under Martin O'Malley's leadership, Martin O'Malley reminds us, medium-size Maryland has abolished the death penalty and embraced Obamacare, and has been crowned No. 1 in America in public education, in female-owned businesses, in median income, in per-capita spending on research and development and in the population of PhDs. (Having the federal government next door in Washington, D.C., does give Maryland an advantage over, say, Arkansas.)

Effusing folksiness, the urban, urbane governor elides the name of his state as if it were a starlet's first name.

"In Marilyn," he says, "the middle class is our North Star."

"Trickle-down economics has been an abject failure for 99 per cent of Americans," he goes on, still blaming "the Bush recession" for the nation's miseries and proceeding with the usual ritual liberal flogging of the idle rich.

"America's middle class hasn't had a raise in 13 years.

"Our children demand and deserve a new kind of leadership," O'Malley says, rising to his tagline. (Four of the nation's children are his.)

"It's not about whether we move right or left. It's whether we move forward."

And that is it. When the session is over, I walk up to the governor of Marilyn, whose hopes of being the next U.S. president were neatly summarized in a recent article in Politico. "For Democrats, there is no fallback: It's Hillary Clinton or probably a long bout of depression."

"Nobody asked you about 2016 today," I say to Martin O'Malley.

"Yeah," the long shot replies. "That was nice."


Allen Abel is a Brooklyn-born Canadian journalist based in Washington, D.C.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 9, 2013 A7

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