Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley announced Wednesday during an economic development trip to the Middle East that he would make a decision about running for president in 2016 by the end of this year.
In Jerusalem on the fourth day of his eight-day trade mission, O'Malley said he was still undecided on whether he'd run.
"I plan for the latter half of this year to dedicate some more thought time -- reflection time -- to the question of whether or not I would run in 2016," O'Malley told reporters.
O'Malley also announced Tuesday that four Israeli technology companies will be opening offices in Maryland.
Presidential elections experts say it's not uncommon for governors eyeing the White House to make overseas trips to beef up their foreign policy credentials.
"It's not untypical, but at the same time, keep in mind governors do this often," said Todd Eberly, coordinator of public policy studies at St. Mary's College of Maryland. "It's sometimes questionable how necessary it is. They could easily send delegations to work out these deals, but one of the perks of being governor is being able to make these trips. [Virginia] Gov. [Bob] McDonnell has made the same trip."
University of Virginia Center for Politics spokesman Geoffrey Skelley said a trip like that could aid a potential O'Malley campaign, but it is dangerous to draw any conclusions about a presidential race that's three years away.
O'Malley has seen a number of his senior staff leave as his final term as governor winds down. On April 18, O'Malley's chief of staff, Matthew Gallagher, left to head a philanthropic organization. He's the third of O'Malley's senior staff to leave in recent months. The governor's former head of public affairs, Rick Abbruzzese, and top legislative officer, Joseph Bryce, both left for lobbying jobs in late 2012.
Eberly said it is not unusual for a governor's staff to jump ship as the executive's term winds down. O'Malley is term-limited and leaves office in January 2015.
"The other thing that's going on [is] he's making the transition from state politics to national politics," said Eberly. "That's a time to shuffle the deck and bring on people who are ready for the rigors of a national campaign, people who are willing to camp out in Iowa."