After the debate: How O’Malley can improve

State Rep. Dan Kelley, D-Newton. 

Rakiah Bonjour

The first Democratic debate showed Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in full force, and while Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb were mostly quiet, Martin O’Malley had a chance to prove he is a serious contender.

Several supporters and political experts weighed in on O’Malley’s performance and what he can do moving forward.

Evan Abramsky, junior in political science and president of Cyclones for Martin O’Malley, said the questions were touted mainly for Sanders and Clinton, and O’Malley held his ground when given the chance, although rarely.

O’Malley’s opening statement promised hope for future generations. He touted energy renewal programs, mentioned his gun reform platform and reminded the nation what he has done for the state of Maryland.

But some critics say his performance was weakened by his persona, which still needs plenty of work.

“Others with more dollars and better-known voices, like [Clinton] or [Sanders] have taken air out of the room,” said Mack Shelley, professor of political science. “He’s not as engaging as [Sanders] and not as well-known as [Clinton] but he doesn’t have baggage that they have.”

Shelley said O’Malley should work on two things: his persona and being a distinguished position-leader.

“When you’re a governor, you don’t want to stick out,” Shelley said. “Running for governor is different than running for president.”

State Rep. Dan Kelley, D-Newton, has endorsed O’Malley and disagrees with critics’ comments about O’Malley’s personality.

“I think he has a great persona,” Kelley said. “He has working-class values and a proven track record. Once voters get to know him, they’ll see.”

Despite O’Malley’s average performance, he did not grip the issues like the other candidates did, Shelley said.

“He echoed whatever [Clinton] was saying,” Shelley said. “He has to find something to be outstanding at.”

O’Malley can pick a number of positions to be outstanding at, but his most recent efforts are focused domestically, where a lot of his experiences lies.

“He had a great closing statement and did a great job pushing pro-gun reform and his clean energy platform,” Abramsky said. “He was quiet on other issues.”

But many agree that this is only the beginning for O’Malley and there is plenty of time.

“You have to pay your dues,” Shelley said.

Shelley explained that O’Malley is still quite young even with his experience as governor. Shelley said he is someone who can be looked at as a “next generation leader,” much like Sanders was in the 1980s.

“The caucus is still months away and a poll is only a snapshot in time,” Kelley said. “The caucus is what truly matters.”

Abramsky agreed, saying it was “too early to tell,” and that there is still a lot to be decided on.

Now that Vice President Joe Biden has announced he will not run, many Democrats are left deciding on a new candidate. Abramsky said upwards of 20 percent of likely caucusgoers now need to find a new candidate, and O’Malley could take up some support from them.

The best way for O’Malley to enhance his candidacy before caucus season is by biding his time. Kelley says as the debate goes on and his campaign continues, voters will better get to know O’Malley.

Abramsky thinks O’Malley reaching out to the nation on talk shows like he has this week on The Daily Show and The View is a good sign for being able to reach voters.

The way the rest of the nation may see O’Malley does not falter Kelley’s view of him. Kelley said he is a strong candidate with experience to show for it.

“I just want to make sure a Democrat is in the oval office, and I think O’Malley can be that Democrat,” Kelley said.