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O'Malley Is Running To The Left, But In 2007 He Urged The Center

Martin O’Malley, who has tried to seize the progressive mantle, wrote an op-ed that the center - not the left - should be the Democratic Party's focus.
Image: Martin O'Malley Addresses U.S. Hispanic Chamber Of Commerce
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 03: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce June 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. The event was O'Malley's first public engagement as a presidential candidate. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)Getty Images

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has tried to seize the progressive mantle in his White House bid, wrote an op-ed he eight years ago where he argued that the center - not the left - should be the Democratic Party's focus.

The 2007 Washington Post op-ed he co-authored with former Congressman Harold Ford Jr., then the chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council was entitled “Our Chance to Capture the Center.”

The two men wrote, “Some on the left would love to pretend that groups such as the Democratic Leadership Council, the party's leading centrist voice, aren't needed anymore. But for Democrats, taking the center for granted next year would be a greater mistake than ever before.”

The op-ed is a contrast with what O'Malley has been promoting in his presidential bid.

At his speech officially announcing his presidential candidacy last Saturday, O'Malley said, “Our economic and political system is upside down and backwards and it is time to turn it around."

In his eight years as Maryland governor, O’Malley racked a record with progressive achievements on gay marriage, gun control and immigration.

But the context of that 2007 op-ed is striking: It came when Hillary Clinton (whom O’Malley had already endorsed) was facing Barack Obama and John Edwards from her left in the 2008 contest. What’s more, that entire message – Democrats must stick to the center to win the White House – was pretty much undercut by Obama’s successful presidential victories in 2008 and 2012.

O’Malley and Ford also wrote: “Contrast the collapse of a conservative president [George W. Bush] with the success of the last centrist president. Bill Clinton ran on an agenda of sensible ideas that brought America a decade of peace and prosperity. He was the only Democrat to be elected and reelected president in the past seven decades, and he left office more popular than almost any other president in recent memory.”

Reached for comment about this 2007 op-ed, the O'Malley campaign cited a 2002 Baltimore Sun article with O'Malley calling himself a "progressive liberal." The article, however, also recounts O'Malley's appearance at a Democratic Leadership Council event.

"O'Malley said he was recruited to join the DLC soon after he was elected mayor three years ago. He said that although he enjoys debating strategy with the organization, he doesn't subscribe to all the positions of its leadership," the Sun article says. "He said he made clear his differences in discussions that included leaders such as Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Evan Bayh of Indiana and focused on what the council calls the 'battle over the soul of the Democratic Party.'"