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O'Malley touts progressive polices as mainstream

Just more than a month into his “reflection time” on a 2016 presidential run, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is trumpeting his state’s recent sweep of progressive legislative initiatives -- repealing the death penalty, enacting strict gun-control measures, allowing certain undocumented immigrants to pay in-state college tuition (the state DREAM Act), and legalizing same-sex marriage -- as mainstream and in line with the direction of the country.

“The ideology of the past no longer serves the challenges of these rapidly changing times," he said Thursday at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress. "Our children demand and they deserve a new way of leadership…that is measured by whether or not we achieve results. It’s not about whether we move left or right; it’s about whether we move forward.”

O’Malley called investments financed by new revenue good governance, especially when used to expand the middle class.

“Trickle-down economics has been an abject failure for 99-percent of Americans,” he said.

At the rollout of a report by the CAP Action Fund on what it deemed the best state practices to rebuild the middle class, O'Malley presented what he said was a pro-business resume. Citing a Chamber of Commerce report, he boasted of Maryland’s No. 1 ranking in "entrepreneurship and innovation," as well as top rankings in median income, public education, and its strong private-sector economic growth as well as its AAA bond rating.

Critics, however, have long lamented Maryland's higher corporate tax, as compared to neighboring Virginia. They contend Maryland has lost businesses as well as residents because of its higher tax burden. Chief Executive magazine rated Maryland as one of the worst states for business in the country, and Virginia as one of the best. An O'Malley adviser counters with an Anderson Economic Group study showing the state with the nation's seventh-lowest  tax burden for businesses.

If O'Malley does run in 2016, his record as governor of Maryland, including the liberal policies he's pursued and the state's record in attracting businesses, will be under the microscope. 

The promotion of his record at a group with ties to President Obama and Clinton -- John Podesta, who founded CAP, was head of Obama’s 2008 presidential transition team and worked in the Clinton White House -- is no doubt a feather in O'Malley's cap with the progressive base as he considers a presidential bid.

In late April, confirming speculation, he told the Associated Press on a trip to Jerusalem that he intends to dedicate the later part of the year to considering a run. (While in Israel, O'Malley gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a Joe Flacco Baltimore Ravens football jersey. The Ravens won the 2013 Super Bowl.)

O’Malley made no explicit mention of 2016 at the event, but did focus heavily on his own achievements in Maryland -- as opposed to other national Democrats, the way, for example, some prominent Republican governors reference each other.

O'Malley framed what he sees as the state’s economic successes as a result of becoming more inclusive.

“The better choices we’ve made in Maryland also go beyond the budget," he said. "They go beyond the fiscal discipline and the tough balancing. We also believe that equal rights and inclusion, diversity, an open society, respect for the dignity of every individual and the dignity of every child’s home…that all of these things make Maryland a more innovative and creative place for business and for job creation.”

Maryland was heavily featured as an exemplary state in the center’s new report, “States at Work: Progressive State Policies to Rebuild the Middle Class.”

In addition to same-sex marriage and the state DREAM Act, O’Malley noted the state’s “living-wage” law, continued investments in education throughout the recession, and progressive income tax brackets. Tom Hucker, one of five authors of the report, serves in the Maryland legislature.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story noted that O'Malley might still run for president if Hillary Clinton does. But an O'Malley adviser tells First Read that's not the case -- he won't run if she does.