Video by Stephen Pimpo
WASHINGTON — Presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley’s performance in the Democratic debate Tuesday wasn’t bad, but it didn’t change the trajectory of his long-shot bid, according to analysts and observers.
The former governor of Maryland got a total of 17 minutes and 56 seconds to speak during the debate – far less than fellow candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and not enough to revive O’Malley’s campaign, political commentators said. O’Malley’s campaign countered that he is doing well in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa.
The debate, hosted by CNN in Las Vegas, featured all five Democratic presidential candidates, including former Rhode Island Gov. and Sen. Lincoln Chafee and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb. They addressed subjects ranging from U.S. troops in Syria, immigration, the “black lives matter” movement, and frontrunner Clinton’s emails.
Although O’Malley, barely registering in national polls, stood a chance of having a moment in the presidential campaign, the debate definitely wasn’t that moment, said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics in Charlottesville, Va.
Kondik said that Clinton and Sanders outshone O’Malley throughout the 150-minute conversation, leaving very little room for the Marylander to effect any change in his candidacy.
“Unfortunately for O’Malley, he is the third performer in a two-person play,” Kondik said, “Clinton and Sanders went into the debate as clearly the top two candidates, and I didn’t see or hear anything from the former Maryland governor that would suggest that will change.”
Meanwhile, Twitter was abuzz with commentary, too. A Forbes analysis showed that Sanders was a clear winner gaining 35,163 followers during the debate, while the other Democratic candidates together gained 23,219 followers, with Clinton in the top spot.
O’Malley’s Twitter following grew in the last hour of the debate, placing him third in the list behind Sanders and Clinton, Forbes reported.
Another Twitter analysis by Politico, concluded that “Martin O’Malley didn’t get (or create) his moment.” Sanders, a Vermont senator, was the most-mentioned candidate on Twitter, with 41 percent of the debate conversation. Clinton, the former secretary of state, was close behind at 39 percent. Webb had 9 percent and O’Malley just 6 percent.
Kondik said that O’Malley’s pointers during the debate did a favor for Clinton because he went against Sanders on some issues. “O’Malley is looking for support anywhere he can get it, and if it comes from Sanders’ camp Clinton would be thrilled,” he said.
O’Malley would continue to hold the third place only until Vice President Joe Biden decides to get in, Kondik noted. Biden so far has not indicated whether he will run.
A poll by the Washington Post and the University of Maryland’s Center for American Politics and Citizenship conducted days before the debate found that O’Malley had the support of only 4 percent of voters in his home state.
Maryland Democrats, even those who know O’Malley, clearly preferred Clinton and Sanders to their own ex-governor, said Scott Clement, a polling survey research analyst at The Washington Post who directed the poll.
“It’s a signal that maybe he’s having trouble both getting known and also convincing people that know him that he should be a good president,” Clement said.
The debate was a chance for O’Malley to introduce himself on the national stage, he said.
“We should expect that people had a chance to look at him and may become a little more familiar with him, which has been his biggest impediment so far,” Clement said.
“No serious candidate (with the exception of Scott Walker) has underperformed quite as dramatically as former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is registering low single digits everywhere — including his home state,” wrote Politico’s Glenn Thrush. He called O’Malley “a liberal candidate trapped between an electrifying socialist and an increasingly progressive Clinton.”
O’Malley didn’t have a niche in the race or a rationale for running, said David Karol, associate professor in the University of Maryland’s department of government and politics.
The ex-governor went into the debate as “a virtual unknown compared to Clinton and even Sanders,” Karol said. O’Malley could have done better only if Clinton or Sanders had stumbled, he said.
“So I think he remains a footnote to this campaign,” Karol said.
“Hillary Clinton is the mainstream candidate and the party elite is solidly behind her, Sanders is the candidate of the purist left,” he added.
O’Malley calling Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump “a carnival barker in the Republican party” did cause some ripples on social media.
Trump, who was actively tweeting during the debate posted, “O’Malley, as former Mayor of Baltimore, has very little chance,” while also lashing out at the other speakers.
“Their bench of candidates for the most powerful office in the world is laughable at best,” said the Republican National Committee (RNC), in a statement that called the debate a clear indication of why the Democratic party decided to limit its number of debates.
However, O’Malley continued to exude confidence and faith in his campaign as he spoke on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday, insisting “we had a great debate last night.”
“I hope we have more of them,” O’Malley added. There are five more Democratic debates, but he has advocated additional ones.
He admitted that he had a hard time getting into some of the candidate exchanges. He went into the debate expecting that 80 percent of the questions would be directed to Clinton and Sanders, he said.
Despite that, he said that it was an opportunity to make progressive promises and talk about his policies including marriage equality, immigration reform and comprehensive gun safety legislation and to emphasize on his executive experience.
O’Malley said he plans to continue his campaign unabated. According to his campaign, his performance in the debate won hearts in Iowa.
“So no matter what’s happening on cable news today, or what national pundits are saying tomorrow – what’s happening on the ground in Iowa is Martin O’Malley continues to impress,” said an e-mail statement from campaign spokeswoman Kristin Sosanie.