Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley argued to Iowans on Saturday that his bid for the White House is still running strong, despite his low standing in polls.
The Democratic hopeful ended the first of a three-day Iowa swing over the Labor Day weekend with a pint of Farmer John’s Multi-Grain Ale before a speech to a standing-room-only crowd at Des Moines’ Confluence Brewing Company. People cheered as O’Malley said he wasn’t backing down from the “tough fight” to winning his party’s nomination.
“I know there are people who look at me and say, ‘Man, those are some pretty tough odds,’” he said. “I kind of like tough odds … Tough fights and tough odds are a silent God’s way of telling us we’re fighting for something worth saving.”
O’Malley has spent 32 days so far in Iowa speaking at taverns, picnics and living rooms in the lead-up to the 2016 caucus, the most days of any Democratic candidate. But, he remains dwarfed in polls by front-runner Hillary Clinton and Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. The most recent Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll placed him at 3 percent support.
Still, O’Malley told the brewery crowd that poll also showed likely Iowa caucusgoers are becoming more familiar with him — a heartening sign, he said. Standing on a chair, he listed his accomplishments while governor and was interrupted by applause for his stances on issues like gun regulation. In Maryland, O’Malley signed a gun law that limited handgun magazines to 10 rounds, among other things.
“Any nitwit can point a finger in the wind and follow the polls,” he said. “Real leadership requires getting things done.”
O’Malley ended his night at Confluence leading the crowd a cappella in song. Earlier in the afternoon, O’Malley spoke to a crowd of mostly seniors in an Ogden living room.
Ellen Fairchild, an Iowa State University education professor who came to see O’Malley in Ogden, said she’s unsure whether he can gain ground on Clinton and overcome the grassroots enthusiasm that has propelled Sanders. But she believes Clinton has “too much baggage” to win the general election and she sees O’Malley and Sanders both as strong alternatives.
“I’m leaning toward Sanders, but Governor O’Malley has a lot of the same strengths I’m looking for,” she said. “It’s too early still. I don’t make up my mind that fast.”
AT THE EVENT
SETTING: A meet-and-greet in an Ogden living room and Confluence Brewing Company in Des Moines
CROWDS: Around 30 people in Ogden and standing-room-only crowd at Confluence.
REACTIONS: People regularly interrupted O’Malley’s speech at Confluence Brewing Company for applause. Many in the crowd sang along as he sang a cappella at the end of his speech.
WHAT’S NEXT: O’Malley will make stops on Sunday in Clinton, Tipton and Anamosa. On Monday, he’ll be in Makoqueta, Dubuque and Iowa City.