Taking the stage at Iowa City's famous Mill this afternoon, to the tune of the Dropkick Murphys, O'Malley cited earlier polls showing him at 1% and said, to laughs, "We are headed in the right direction and thank goodness we are not peaking too early."
"You insist on on meeting each of us candidates two or three... or four or five or six... or seven times," O'Malley said, as the caucus veterans in the crowd chuckled in self-recognition. He cited one woman who he had met multiple times who said "you're improving, and I always caucus for the one who improves the most."
More than the other Democratic candidates, O'Malley seems to actively enjoy this kind of old-school, pre-2008 style caucus work, and this kind of not too big not too small event. (After multiple tweets back and forth about crowd size that varied from 75 to 300, we settled at "about 200.")
The O'Malley speech is still in shape and content the same O'Malley Speech I've now heard about seven times (15 years of executive experience? Drink! Springsteen conclusion? Drink!) but it evolves and adapts well to each setting.Nice midafternoon crowd in Iowa City at the legendary Mill waiting for @MartinOMalley recognize these guys? pic.twitter.com/kGU75gdLeC— John Deeth (@johndeeth) August 30, 2015
While discussing his support of a national $15 minimum wage and citing his own successful effort to raise Maryland's minimum to $10,10, O'Malley worked in a positive reference to Johnson County's local minimum wage effort.
O'Malley also has a good new line on student debt: ""My wife and I were proud of our daughters on graduation day," he said, "and we're going to be proud of them every month for rest of our lives." The students in the crowd seemed to appreciate the line as much as the parents.
In another good line, O'Malley wrapped up a clean energy section by noting "the best thing about wind turbines is: those big blades are too big to ship in from China, you have to manufacture them here." So a nudge at China without Trump "we want deal" meanness.
The Donald did not escape mention, of course, as O'Malley called on Democrats - and Republicans - to "Push back against hatred fear and racist language from Donald Trump" in debates - while continuing his call for more an earlier Democratic debates that he escalated earlier this week at a DNC meeting.
The Q amd A session lasted about a half hour, as long as the set speech, and O'Malley took about six more questions after saying "last question." Topics included Iran (pro deal), Israel/Palestine (2 states), working with a Republican Congress (we need to restore ability to work with those we disagree with), fracking (banned in Maryland despite what questioner charged, which led to a discussion of Maryland geography and how skinny the skinny part is - "just over the hill is Pennsylvania and you can hit a golf ball across the Potomac into West Virginia"), and confrontations with activist group Black Lives Matter ("My criminal justice reform plan has been called the gold standard. I've been on a 23 year mission to save & redeem lives.")
Lots more real time quotes on the Twitter feed.
He also talks of a "new generation of leadership," more as a plus for himself than as a dig at the 60something Hillary Clinton or the 70something Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden... but time is something the 52 year old O'Malley has that the other Democrats do not. Even if this is not O'Malley's year, the goodwill he's banking could earn interest for a while.