Wall Street Journal
By Peter Nicholas and Natalie Andrews
February 2, 2016
The first casualty of Iowa’s caucuses is former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who announced Monday night that he was dropping out of the Democratic presidential race after a disappointing showing.
Mr. O’Malley told supporters at a Des Moines bar that he was suspending a campaign that never gained traction against rivals Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. He did not endorse either of the two.
With about 90% of the Iowa caucus results reported, Mr. O’Malley stood at less than 1%.
Flashing smiles, Mr. O’Malley said: “When I got into this, eight months ago, I had no doubt that it would be a tough fight. And it has been a tough fight.”
Mr. Sanders, in a speech late Monday might, thanked Mr. O’Malley. “He should know that he contributed a whole lot to the dialogue,” the Vermont senator said.
Mr. O’Malley had sought to position himself as a liberal alternative to Mr. Sanders—a seasoned executive who had the skills to put his ideals into practice. At age 53, he also cast himself as part of a younger generation who was not part of Washington’s political culture. The arguments fell flat, though, and he never came within striking distance of Mr. Sanders or Mrs. Clinton. In national polls he never cracked an average of 5%, according to Real Clear Politics.
After Mr. O’Malley dropped out, his campaign manager, David Hamrick, sent out an email saying, “Entering the race as an unknown, he always faced long odds—especially against a candidate as universally known as Secretary Clinton.”
Mr. O’Malley jumped in the race in May and struggled to gain name recognition or raise the money needed to be competitive. At some of his events in Iowa, people who came to see him had no idea where he was from or what offices he had held. He collected about $5 million in campaign contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By contrast, Mr. Sanders raised $20 million in the month of January alone.
When it came to policy, Mr. O’Malley had little to offer that distinguished him from his rivals. All have said they favor gun control, aggressive steps to combat global climate change and an immigration overhaul that provides undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.
Mr. O’Malley put great stock in the Democratic debates. A fluid speaker with good looks, he hoped to turn in strong debate performances that would cause Clinton and Sanders backers to give him a fresh look. But the schedule approved by Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz did him no favors. The party set a total of only six debates and threatened to punish candidates who took part in debates that it had not sanctioned. Mr. O’Malley accused the party leadership of favoring Mrs. Clinton.
In a speech at a Democratic National Committee gathering in Minneapolis in August, he took aim at the party’s decision to hold only six debates, saying, “Whose decree is this actually? Where did it come from? To what end and what purpose? What national or party interest does this decree serve?”
(Under pressure from Mr. Sanders and Mrs. Clinton, the party now seems likely to accept more debates.)
Yet when the debates began last October, Mr. O’Malley found himself a bit player on stage. He could not match Mrs. Clinton’s command of policy detail or Mr. Sanders’s populist fervor.
Before the caucuses, O’Malley aides signaled that the Iowa results would determine whether he would plow forward. When Iowans gathered for the caucuses Monday night, they showed little appetite for his candidacy.
At a West Des Moines church, nearly 300 people crammed into a room that was set up to hold about half as many caucusgoers. Only five supported Mr. O’Malley; three were undecided. As the numbers were read aloud, an O’Malley supporter yelled out, “We beat undecided!”
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