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Goodbye Martin O’Malley, You Never Had a Chance

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Martin O’Malley suspended his presidential campaign during the Iowa caucuses on Monday night, upon discovering he was never in the race to begin with. No one was betting that O’Malley would do better than third place in Iowa, but the former Maryland governor barely registered in the caucuses, pulling in less than 1 percent of votes. 

When I got into this eight months ago, I had no doubt that it would be anything but a tough fight,” O’Malley said in a speech Monday night. His decision to run, he said, came from thinking “it would be an extreme poverty indeed if the Democratic party had only two candidates to choose from.”

“Tonight I have to tell you I have to suspend this presidential bid, but I am not ending this fight,” he said. His speech touched on all the issues he emphasized in his short-lived campaign—the minimum wage, immigration, gun violence, and climate change—because it was a campaign very much based on policy ideas. 

In the small Democratic field, O’Malley’s pitch as the progressive but electable alternative to Hillary Clinton never took off, but he did have an outsized impact in a few of these areas. His proposals on immigration, gun violence, and climate change received strong favorable reviews from liberal activists. Playing up his experience as a former mayor, he put forward the most comprehensive and creative plan by far for revitalizing cities. His policies often went into detail, while Clinton’s have not. O’Malley laid a path forward for how a Democratic president can govern while facing a likely Republican Congress.

But O’Malley never saw his campaign gain momentum, as Sanders quickly did. He had to take out $500,000 in loans last quarter to keep his campaign afloat, on top of the $1 million in fundraising, according to filings for the final quarter of 2015. Clinton and Sanders both pulled in 30 times that amount.

It’s safe to say O’Malley’s pitch for a “new generation” of political leadership never took hold.