Gov. Martin O'Malley may have his eye on running for the White House, but a new Baltimore Sun poll suggests he could have a tough time winning the Democratic primary election in his own state.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outpolled O'Malley by nearly 10 to 1 among likely Maryland Democratic voters asked to name their top choice among four possible candidates to be the party's standard-bearer in the 2016 presidential election.
When asked for a favorite among Clinton, O'Malley, Vice President Joe Biden and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, 59 percent picked Clinton. Biden came in second, with 14 percent.
O'Malley, who's been openly exploring a presidential run for months, got picked by just 6 percent of the state's Democratic voters. He did only slightly better than Cuomo, who was the choice of 4 percent of those polled.
"I just don't think Martin O'Malley has the chops," said Dan Meenan, 53, a computer programmer from Baltimore County. "He's not going to wash nationally," he added.
Another favorite son, Dr. Benjamin Carson, proved to be the top pick among Maryland Republican voters asked to choose from a list of five possible presidential contenders. The other GOP prospects mentioned were former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
"Awesome" is what Marcia Lewandowski of Dundalk calls Carson, the renowned Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon who retired last year and took up political punditry.
"He just speaks the truth," Lewandowski, 59, said of Carson. "He's very wonderful in the way he talks about things."
With the presidential primary still two years away, the poll offers a snapshot of the support candidates would have if the vote were held today. The political landscape can change drastically.
Still, O'Malley — who was among the first governors to endorse Clinton in the 2008 primary — faces a difficult challenge at this early stage. With Clinton dominating the potential field, he and other potential candidates must raise money and introduce themselves to voters in her shadow.
Many political observers believe O'Malley is making the right early moves to preserve a spot in the race should Clinton ultimately decide not to run. He is traveling to early voting states, such as Iowa and New Hampshire, and has been building a fundraising network beyond the state's borders.
The poll, conducted by OpinionWorks of Annapolis, was based on telephone interviews with likely Democratic and Republican primary voters and has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points for questions about each party's primary.
The survey also asked voters of both parties statewide, as well as independents, for their assessment of the job performance of Gov.O'Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. It found:
•Maryland voters split almost evenly in rating O'Malley's performance as governor the past seven years, with 45 percent approving and 42 percent disapproving. The remainder either weren't sure or wouldn't say.
•Twenty-six percent of Maryland voters like the job Rawlings-Blake has done managing the city, while 20 percent don't. But the majority either couldn't or wouldn't pass judgment.
The margin of error for those questions is 2.8 percentage points.
Despite O'Malley's weak support for president among likely Democratic primary voters, the poll found they overwhelmingly approve of the job he's done as governor. They like his management of the state by a margin of 65 percent to 22 percent Republicans disapprove by a whopping 81 percent to 10 percent margin.
The preference by Maryland Democrats for other presidential hopefuls "is not a good sign for him," said Steve Raabe, president of OpinionWorks. To be seen as a viable candidate on the national stage, it's "almost a prerequisite" to have the backing of your home state.
"For these second tier candidates, it's advocates from their own state who go to Iowa and New Hampshire" to sell them to voters, Raabe said. O'Malley, he said, "definitely has some work to do here at home."
It's also clear from the poll results that the state's Democrats have "tremendous affection" for Clinton, Raabe said. Though she lost to Barack Obama in Maryland's 2008 primary, she's been a well-known figure for years — as First Lady in the Clinton administration, a New York senator, Obama's rival in 2008 and then secretary of state.
"Politically speaking, she's a giant," Raabe said.
Meenan, who considers himself fiscally conservative but socially liberal, is among those impressed by Clinton.
"I think she's strong and will not be pushed around by a recalcitrant Congress," he said.
"She doesn't run from things," agreed Darryl Dandridge, 50, of Baltimore. He said he's also drawn to Clinton because he rates her husband, Bill Clinton, the best president he's ever known.
"I feel he would have a little influence on what she does," Dandridge said.