POLITICS

O'Malley underwhelms at DNC

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Politics,Local,Maryland,Hayley Peterson

With any luck for Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, his speech to the Democratic National Convention will soon fade into memory as too forgettable to permanently affect his political career, political analysts say.

O'Malley's prime-time address Tuesday, in which he repeatedly urged delegates to chant with him, "Forward, not back," won some praise, but most of the reviews were soundly negative.

(Read the full text or a recap of O'Malley's speech)

"He made a miscalculation," said Todd Eberly, a politics professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland. "The overexaggerated gestures, the smile -- there was something false, something contrived about the delivery of the speech that I think completely and totally took away from the message."

In his remarks, O'Malley defended public investments in things like education and infrastructure -- investments that he said Republican nominee Mitt Romney wouldn't make. He fought for a progressive agenda and argued for a balanced approach to spurring economic growth.

That part of O'Malley's message was "absolutely powerful," Eberly said. But when O'Malley veered off that message into a discussion of his broader vision for the country's future, the governor lost his footing, critics said.

"Martin O'Malley has lost it ... bring in the men in the white coats," pollster and political expert Stuart Rothenberg tweeted.

Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik wrote of the speech, "It was too big and felt far too artificial and gimmicky for the intimacy of TV."

O'Malley was clearly trying to rile up the delegates by urging them to chant with him: "Forward, not back." But the group never managed to chant the phrase in-sync, so it failed to catch fire in the arena.

To make matters worse for O'Malley, his speech was sandwiched between two speakers who outshined him, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, said Matthew Crenson, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University.

"It was a good speech but it had to face real competition," Crenson said. "He had hard acts to follow and to precede."

Bruce Handy of Vanity Fair tweeted: "Whose idea was it to put Martin O'Malley on after Deval Patrick? 'Swiss bank accounts never built a bridge?' Even I'm groaning."

Some fellow Maryland Democrats were more kind to the governor.

Maryland Delegate Jon S. Cardin, D-Baltimore City, called the remarks "very impressive" and Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker tweeted to O'Malley: "Great job... Let's move our country forward... Not back."

O'Malley later called it a "very humbling and exhilarating experience," in an interview with Politico. "I enjoyed it," he said.

Crenson said O'Malley's performance won't do much for his national profile, which O'Malley has been steadily building this year as a top surrogate for President Obama.

"The fact that he was on the [convention] program indicates that he's recognized as somebody who is on the radar" as a 2016 presidential candidate, Crenson said. "But his prospects are dimmed by the fact that he comes from Maryland -- a state that doesn't have many electoral votes and is safely Democratic."

hpeterson@washingtonexaminer.com

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Hayley Peterson

Staff writer - White House/campaign and Maryland politics
The Washington Examiner