Monday, March 02, 2015

Martin and Mikulski

Martin O'Malley spent a fair amount of time in Iowa last fall. The term-limited Maryland governor made at least four stops for statewide and legislative candidates just in my county.  It's the kind of thing potential presidential candidates DO at that point in the cycle, and in the year leading up to the caucuses.
Just saying.

Sure, Hillary did the Harkin Steak Fry and some Bruce Braley stuff, but she wasn't at the tiny meet and greets with long-shot statewide candidates (Jack Hatch) or key legislative candidates (Kevin Kinney) like O'Malley was, and like past contenders were in 2006 and 2002.

But O'Malley, while greeted warmly, seemed to get little traction against The Inevitable. And while Biden would get a pass because he's a sitting VP and Sanders would get a pass because of ideology, barring those two the Democratic base won't settle for another Old Straight White Guy.  (Jim Webb has nothing to lose, and in the context of a one on one race against Hillary Clinton, is about a step above Some Dude.  Prediction: if the caucus is between Hillary Clinton and Jim Webb, Uncommitted finishes second.)

Which is why Warren is the ideal Clinton challenger; takes gender out of it. And age - there's a generational dynamic that I saw with Hillary supporters back in `07. It's not just that they want Woman President - they want Woman President to be from the founding mothers generation of feminism. (Similar dynamic also explains people favoring Monica Vernon over Anesa Kajtazovic.) And Warren, just 18 months younger than Clinton, would defuse that.

One of the great founding mothers, of course, is Barbara Mikulski. Hard as it is to believe, as recently as December 1978 there were zero women in the Senate. When Mikulski was elected in 1986, she was one of just two (the year Mikulski won, Florida Republican Paula Hawkins lost her re-elect, while Nancy Landon Kassebaum of Kansas held over), and she was the only Democrat - the first female Democrat elected without a husband as a predecessor.  That recently. 1986. I have t-shirts older than that.

Mikulski's retirement today sets off a ripple effect in Maryland politics much like Tom Harkin's retirement did in Iowa last cycle. And it may ripple all the way up into the presidential race.

As I noted, O'Malley was term limited out of office last year. He and Mikulski are old allies - O'Malley ran that `86 Senate campaign for Mikulski. And the Senate race may be a good exit strategy for O'Malley since his other ambitions seem stalled. NEVER MIND.

He may have a lot of competition. Unlike Harkin's seat, the Maryland seat seems safely Democratic, and Maryland has a deep bench of ambitious Democrats.  Some of them may be looking to Annapolis rather than the District, though.  O'Malley's lieutenant governor failed to get across the finish line and, in one of the year's bigger upsets, Republican Larry Hogan won. That challenge may look better than a Senate bid for some.

In any case, it would be fun to eavesdrop on all the conversations Maryland Dems will be having in the critical next 48 hours.

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