RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
There is no doubt Republicans face a contest for their presidential nomination. It's unlikely that Democrats will because at the moment polls show Hillary Clinton has the support of around 60 percent of Democrats across the country. She dominates all possible challengers.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
One potential rival has a different number in mind. It involves Iowa which votes first for president. Last time Hillary Clinton ran in Iowa, about 70 percent of Democrats chose someone else. She lost, and the race changed. If he were to run in 2016, Martin O'Malley would ask those voters to give him a chance.
O'MALLEY: Democrats - not only in Iowa, not only in New Hampshire and South Carolina but across the country - want to have a discussion and a debate about the better choices we need to make to build upon the good things that have been accomplished over these last eight years, but to move us over this threshold to a new era of American progress, and that hunger is growing, not diminishing.
INSKEEP: O'Malley says he will not decide until May if he's running, though in our talk he also said when I get in the race. We met in Washington Friday, and we talked about the front runner. O'Malley spoke with care. He mostly suggested criticisms rather than making them. We asked him to compare himself to Clinton, and, in response, he spoke of, who can better appeal to a younger generation of voters?
O'MALLEY: I see, having spoken to younger people, people under 40, where our country is headed. And it is not the sort of siloed and bureaucratic and ideological world of many of us baby boomers and our older siblings. It is a more connected world, and it is a more collaborative and open and transparent world. That's the way I've always governed, and that's the way that you have to govern in order to get things done today. So I believe that differences will become apparent, and over the next month, I'm sure she will start to roll out her policy choices. When I get in the race, I will lay mine out.
INSKEEP: Are you suggesting that you would do a better job in appealing to those voters under 40 that you describe?
O'MALLEY: I think I'm certainly - certainly the conversations seem to carry themselves whenever I'm on college campuses. In other words, I do think that there's a connection, and I do think there's a recognition that we need to change the way we govern. We need to change our government. We need to change our approach and be a lot more entrepreneurial in asking what works.
INSKEEP: Would Secretary Clinton not appeal successfully to younger voters who are a big part of the Democratic coalition?
O'MALLEY: Oh, I don't know. I mean, that's what a campaign's about. If we knew how all this turned out, it wouldn't be so exciting.
INSKEEP: Your campaign has already commented on a couple of statements that Secretary Clinton's campaign has made, clarifying where she stands on gay marriage and clarifying where she stands on driver's licenses for people who are in the United States without documents. What was of interest to you about what she said?
O'MALLEY: Well, I'm glad she's come around to those positions on the issue of marriage equality, which we passed in Maryland. I'm glad she's come around to the issue driver's licenses for new American immigrants so that they can obey the rules of the road. This was something we did also in Maryland. And so I'm glad she's come around to those positions.
INSKEEP: What do you mean by come around, though?
O'MALLEY: I mean that she wasn't in favor of those things before.
INSKEEP: Wasn't in favor of gay marriage years ago, you mean.
O'MALLEY: I'm saying that - I'm saying that marriage is a human right. And I'm saying that there were many and there were some, including Secretary Clinton, who said very recently - until very recently - that marriage equality was a state right. And I'm saying that while we passed the driver's license bill for immigrants, this is a new position for her to be in favor of it, and you know that as well.
INSKEEP: Well, I was thinking about exactly what she had said, though. She had said previously this was a matter for states to decide. She had said she was in favor of gay marriage, and what is new is simply an expression by her campaign, a hope that the Supreme Court in an upcoming case would rule in favor of marriage equality across the country, which doesn't actually seem like that big a difference. What makes that important to talk about?
O'MALLEY: The - it was. Well, actually you asked me about it.
O'MALLEY: So you must think there's something important.
INSKEEP: You'd commented on it though.
O'MALLEY: Right, and I was asked about it last night. Look, I think the bigger issue, Steve, is this - the bigger issue is, do we have the ability as a party to lead by our principles, or are we going to conduct polls every time we try to determine where the middle is on any given day? I have had a history as a leader of doing things that very often times are unpopular considered in a singular way, but collectively have made my state a better and stronger place, have contributed to our common good, have put into law and into action the belief we share and the dignity of every individual. I believe that we govern best as a party, and we campaign best as a party when we campaign and we govern from our principles rather than from polls.
INSKEEP: What are you saying there about Secretary Clinton?
O'MALLEY: I'm saying that we govern best as a party (laughter) and as - and we campaign best as candidates when we campaign and govern from our principles.
INSKEEP: You've been described as a friend of the Clintons, a longtime friend of the Clintons. Is that right?
O'MALLEY: Yeah. I like them both.
INSKEEP: Is it awkward at all to contemplate running against Hillary Clinton, running against the Clintons in effect?
O'MALLEY: Well, you know, there were many people in the contest for the Democratic nomination. I think what would be more awkward is if no one were willing to compete for the Democratic Party's nomination for president. That would be an extreme poverty indeed.
INSKEEP: That's former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, who is deciding whether to run for president. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.