O'Malley still weighing presidential bid

January 12, 2014|Erin Cox | The Baltimore Sun

Gov. Martin O’Malley said on national television Sunday he is still evaluating whether to run for president, that the state’s minimum wage should be $10 an hour, and that he considered moving Maryland’s troubled health exchange to the federal site as far back as June.

In a wide-ranging interview on CNN’s "State of the Union," the governor defended what host Candy Crowley described as a health exchange rollout “disastrous by most accounts.”

“This complex IT challenge had ups and downs every step of the way,” O’Malley said. “There were lots of cautionary lights, lots of red lights, but there were also green lights … The problem is, there was no assurance that the federal website was going to work any better, and it didn't.”

The governor said he still expects the state to meet its goal of enrolling 260,000 people in health care through Medicaid and private plans, though he acknowledged, “The shopping website, we squibbed the kickoff.”

His comments come as the glitch-ridden online insurance marketplace improves but the state lags far behind its goal to enroll 150,000 in private plans. The bungled rollout could prove a political liability O’Malley, who has cast himself as a technologically savvy leader, as he eyes higher office.

When twice asked directly about whether he had decided to run for president, O’Malley said he was still considering it. “I'm thinking about it, but right now I'm focused on what I need to do for the good people of our state,” he said.

The two-term Democrat declined to elaborate on how he would sell himself - and his progressive record of supporting gun-control, same-sex marriage and in state tuition for immigrants – to a national audience should he run for president after his term ends this year.

Instead, O’Malley said that “what the people of our country want is not ideology, not trickle-down economics, but middle-out economics where we strengthen our middle class to grow our economy.”

The governor cast his top priority of the upcoming session – raising Maryland’s minimum wage above $7.25 an hour – as crucial to helping the middle class. His revelation that state leaders are “zeroing in around the $10 an hour minimum wage in Maryland,” marked the first time the governor set a dollar amount for the new wage.

O'Malley also said that the budget he will release this week will close the deficit, estimated to be roughly $500 million, “without any new taxes.”

O’Malley demurred when asked about the bridge scandal engulfing his long-time political sparring partner Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who is considered a Republican front-runner for the presidential nomination in 2016.

The scandal dominated political news this week after emails revealed top Christie aides orchestrated a four-day traffic jam in New Jersey town of Fort Lee, reportedly as political retribution to the city’s mayor. Christie gave a two-hour press conference apologizing to the people of New Jersey this week. O’Malley, who has frequently taken opportunities to jab at Christie, declined to do so Sunday.

“I don't know that I can really shed more light on it,” O’Malley said. “ I think this is something for the people of New Jersey to get to the bottom of.”

Maryland politicians had a strong presence on the Sunday morning political shows, with Rep. Elijah Cummings appearing on “Face the Nation” and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on the “Meet the Press.”

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