O’Malley’s March To 2016

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley put his signature on the state’s marijuana decriminalization bill on Monday. Katie Zezima sees this as another example of O’Malley “tacking to the left and burnishing his liberal credentials“:

While other potential 2016 candidates on both sides of the aisle have voiced their support for decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana (we’re looking at you, Rand Paul), O’Malley is the first who has actually taken any action.

But Waldman doubts that the liberal agenda will decide the 2016 Democratic primary:

The problem is that the liberal scorecard may not be the basis for how primary voters usually make their decisions, especially Democrats.

It isn’t that ideology doesn’t matter, but it eventually gets overtaken by questions of character, electability, or things like the “theory of change” debate that animated the 2008 contest between Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards, in which the most substantial disagreement was over how you go about enacting your agenda.

These days, Democrats are much more focused on an expansive and detailed liberal agenda than back in 2004. At the time, it was enough for Howard Dean to say that he’d take on George W. Bush without fear, and this allowed him to assume the role of liberal standard bearer, even though Dean’s record in Vermont wasn’t particularly leftist (he had been a member of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council and was given high marks by the NRA, among other things). His record mattered much less than the attitude he embodied.

And Jill Lawrence points out that O’Malley’s partisan record could also be a liability:

O’Malley is a polished and aggressive partisan, having honed his message as head of the Democratic Governors Association, as a party spokesman on TV, and on the circuit at Democratic dinners and campaign events across the country. If he runs, he will have a strong substantive case to put before primary voters. He’ll have more of a challenge convincing them he has what it takes to make headway in a less hospitable environment than Maryland. It’s not his only potential obstacle, but it could well be a top consideration for some voters, given the despair-inducing dysfunction of the last few years.