O'Malley, Clinton swap praise

As expected, he endorses her bid for president

May 10, 2007|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,Sun reporter

Gov. Martin O'Malley endorsed New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for president yesterday, saying she will erase a "leadership deficit" that has existed under President Bush and will bring the country together to improve education, health care and security.

The two Democrats appeared together yesterday morning at City Dock in Annapolis, where hundreds of supporters and passers-by gathered to watch the endorsement. O'Malley is the second sitting governor to endorse Clinton in the early stages of the Democratic nomination process, joining New Jersey's Jon S. Corzine.

"We are in immediate need of a strong leader of intelligence, of insight, of toughness and understanding," O'Malley said. "Standing with me today is that leader, Hillary Rodham Clinton."

At times in the half-hour event, it was unclear who was endorsing whom. Clinton spoke at length and without notes about O'Malley's accomplishments as Baltimore mayor and as governor, in particular praising him for the "Believe" campaign he used in an effort to restore hope to the city.

"Yes, we need to close this deficit of leadership, and I intend to do that as the next president. And we need to have good policy to transform Americans' hopes and dreams into reality," the former first lady said. "But we also have to convince Americans again to believe."

O'Malley's endorsement gives Clinton a strong foothold in the bid for Maryland's 99 delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Clinton now has the aid of the two strongest statewide Democratic organizations in Maryland: those of O'Malley and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who is a national co-chairwoman of the New York senator's campaign.

Most of the state's other top Democrats have not yet endorsed candidates, and they stayed away from the event. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller skipped the endorsement speech but showed up for coffee with the governor and senator at the City Dock Cafe.

"We need somebody who's electable," said Miller, who supports one of Clinton's rivals, former Sen. John Edwards. "I think she can win the primary, but I'm not as sure about the general election."

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, who attended law school with another of Clinton's rivals, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, also did not attend.

"It's too early for me," Brown said.

Clinton has long been a Republican target of criticism, and the state party was eager yesterday to highlight her link to O'Malley.

"This is just another example of Martin O'Malley's lack of leadership," state GOP Chairman James Pelura said in an e-mail. "Four years ago, O'Malley jumped on the bandwagon of frontrunner Howard Dean, and he is doing the same with the frontrunner this time around."

But Democrats who attended the event said they were impressed.

Rebecca Quinn, an Annapolis Democrat who is undecided in the primary, said she walked away with a much better impression of Clinton than she had before.

"She's clearly an intelligent woman who's got a broad grasp, but she's a person I feel like I have an affinity to," Quinn said.

Katie Sullivan, an 18-year-old freshman at St. John's College, said she came to the speech as a Clinton supporter, but she was wowed when the senator walked out of the coffee shop, picked her out of the crowd and started talking to her.

"You were the one nodding when I was talking about the cost of college tuition, weren't you?" Clinton asked her. "Is that a problem for you or your friends?"

"I didn't think she was paying attention to anyone in particular, so that was awesome," Sullivan said later. "I think she was sincere in her concern, but I don't know that she's going to be able to do anything about it, really. I don't see the problem [of high tuition] being solved anytime soon."

Clinton stayed and chatted with Sullivan, who is from Bel Air, for about a minute before moving to a young mother carrying her baby, prompting the senator to proclaim her love for pajamas with feet.

andy.green@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Laura Vozzella contributed to this article.

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