Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley had the mixed fortune of being the slap-hitting second baseman in a lineup of sluggers Sept. 4 at the Democratic National Convention. He followed Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who stirred the crowd.
And O’Malley preceded up-and-comer Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, who spun a touching narrative about his family and the American dream. As he noted how he and his twin brother, Joaquin, met brilliant people while at Stanford and Harvard Law School, Castro said about some of his high school classmates, “I realized the difference wasn’t one of intelligence or drive. The difference was opportunity.” He was acknowledging that government can play a key role in personal development.
By most accounts, O’Malley surpassed his weak performance on the big stage in 2004. The governor seemed genuinely happy to be in front of the camera — no surprise to anyone who has followed his career — and like that second baseman who brings other attributes to the game, he had a role to serve. His speech clearly was meant to spark a give-and-take with the prop-wielding audience — he would shout “Forward” and convention-goers would respond “Not back.”
For the ambitious O’Malley, though, his convention speech might have served as a microcosm of his overall problem going forward: He’s a dependable team player who isn’t the all-star he works to become. Of all the lineup’s speeches Sept. 4, capped off by Michelle Obama’s deeply heartfelt delivery, O’Malley’s most obviously hewed to a script, its mechanics audible and visible if not exactly creaky.