The Shoulda Been Candidate

While the Republicans were playing clown car with 17 candidates on the debate stage, the Democrats had three. And the best one—I believe the most electable one—never got any traction, never got above 3 or 4% in national polls.

3CR-omalleyI’m talking of course about Martin O’Malley, former mayor of Baltimore and former governor of Maryland. He was an attractive, articulate candidate with a progressive vision…on the environment, on income inequality, immigration, criminal justice, campaign finance reform. Plus he’s the frontman for an Irish rock band. And he quoted Bruce Springsteen in his announcement speech. Perfect candidate, as far as I’m concerned.

There are better reasons why O’Malley would be a good candidate and a good president.

  1. Governors are usually considered to be effective presidents because the issues they deal with (working with legislatures, dealing with day-to-day policy issues, assembling a team of experienced aides) are similar—in nature if not in scale—to those of running a country.
  2. He has strong executive experience: eight years as governor of Maryland (2007-2015), eight years as mayor of Baltimore (1999-2007), preceded by eight years on the Baltimore City Council.
  3. He may be the best manager in government, a least that’s what the Washington Monthly said in 2013. And according to the Boston Globe, Hillary Clinton said in one of her private emails in 2010 that O’Malley “should be reelected by acclamation for steering the ship of state so well.”
  4. He represents a new model of “entrepreneurial, data-driven governance,” according to Politico, while other Democrats represent the old, tired, centrist ways of the party.

Fans of the HBO series “The Wire” believe that the Thomas Garcetti character is modeled specifically after O’Malley. Producer David Simon has always denied this.

(A caveat is in order. O’Malley had a tough-on-crime policy in his first mayoral term, and crime was reduced significantly. But he’s criticized by civic leaders and community activists for those policing policies, which may also have fueled a distrust of law enforcement that surfaced in the Freddie Gray case last year.)

For the last two years, I’ve been saying I’m not ready for Hillary, I’ll support anyone but Hillary (that is, any Democrat but Hillary–that’s another whole essay). And although I admire Bernie Sanders and I like his positions on the issues (and I voted for him in the Illinois primary, even though O’Malley’s name was still on the ballot), I still think Martin O’Malley would have been more electable than either of them. He looks like a presidential candidate. He sounds like a presidential candidate. He has strong executive experience. I think he would have run well against any of the unhinged GOP candidates. And no one was paying any attention to him.

The only consolation is that O’Malley is only 53. He’ll have a chance to run again after Hillary or one of the crazies gets the country into more wars or tramples on our privacy and who knows what else.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Here’s a video of O’Malley’s March playing at an Irish festival.

OK, they’re not as good as the Dropkick Murphys. Or the Pogues.


The essay above is the opinion of the author, not of Third Coast Review or its staff. 


Nancy S Bishop
Nancy S Bishop

Nancy S. Bishop is publisher and Stages editor of Third Coast Review. She’s a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and a 2014 Fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. You can read her personal writing on pop culture at, and follow her on Twitter @nsbishop. She also writes about film, books, art, architecture and design.


  1. This hagiographic BS needs to be tempered with the views of Davis Simon. Go to his website to get a opinion of someone who knows this opportunistic creep. The city councilman in THE WIRE was based on this guy.

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