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Poll: Most Maryland residents don't think Martin O'Malley should run for president

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Local,Maryland,Andy Brownfield

ANNAPOLIS -- A majority of voters in heavily Democratic Maryland think Gov. Martin O'Malley shouldn't run for president in 2016, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The Gonzales Research poll of 801 Marylanders found 25 percent thought O'Malley should run for president, while 58 percent said he shouldn't. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percent.

The poll found that, while many of them wouldn't vote for him for president, 54 percent approve of the job O'Malley is doing, while 41 percent disapprove. O'Malley's second -- and last -- term as governor ends in 2014.

Maryland is one of the bluest states in the nation, with 56 percent of active voters registered as Democrats and 26 percent Republicans.

The poll results

Source: Gonzales Research

• 58 percent of respondents think Gov. Martin O'Malley should not run for president in 2016; 25 percent say he should.
• 54 percent approve of the job O'Malley is doing; 41 percent disapprove.
• 49 percent favor the death penalty; 44 percent oppose it.
• 58 percent favor an assault weapons ban; 40 percent oppose a ban.
• 26 percent favor a 10-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase to fund transportation projects; 73 percent oppose such an increase.

O'Malley's national prominence has risen since he took the helm of the Democratic Governors Association in 2011. He has started a political action committee, called O' Say Can You See. Such PACs are often used to contribute money to candidates and causes across the country and often hint at ambitions of higher office.

Todd Eberly, coordinator of public policy studies at St. Mary's College of Maryland, said some of O'Malley's policies -- including maintaining Maryland's No. 1 public schools ranking, focus on wind energy, hard line on gun control and legalization of gay marriage -- would appeal to Democratic primary voters.

However, O'Malley's record on taxes is likely to make him unpopular with conservative voters. His administration has raised taxes and fees 24 times since he took office in 2007 to a tune of $2.4 billion. That includes a 2012 tax increase on Marylanders earning at least $100,000.

Eberly also noted that primary opponents would likely point out that O'Malley -- whose party controls both legislative chambers -- has never had to face a strong opposition party.

Pollster Patrick Gonzales says it's early to read much into the poll results.

"I think for the average person who doesn't follow politics, becoming president is just a huge leap," he said. "In Illinois, if they had asked in 2006 if Barack Obama, who had just become a senator, should be elected president, my suspicion is that 58 percent of people would say he shouldn't run."

Eberly said there are a variety of reasons so many Marylanders might say they don't want their governor to run.

Some people might not like O'Malley, Eberly said. Some could think a presidential run could distract him from governing, or some could have already made up their minds on another candidate.

"There are two major unknown factors: one factor named Biden and one factor named Clinton," he said, referring to Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- both of whom have been mentioned as possible Democratic candidates in 2016.

"If either decide to make a run in 2016, the two of them suck every bit of oxygen from the race."

A national survey by Public Policy Polling asking 400 likely Democratic primary voters who their preferred candidate would be saw Clinton favored at 57 percent, Biden at 16 percent and O'Malley with 3 percent. The poll was taken between Jan. 3 and 9.

If Clinton and Biden are removed from the options, O'Malley is favored by 7 percent of respondents, finishing third behind New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

An O'Malley spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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