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A student’s guide to the 2016 candidates: Martin O’Malley

Martin O’Malley is running for the Democratic presidential nomination but faces a lack of recognition. Special to the Oracle

Known for being tough on guns and smooth with a guitar, Martin O’Malley is one of the two “other” democrats in the 2016 race. O’Malley, 52, announced his candidacy for president May 30. He has struggled to emerge from the shadow cast by his two main democratic rivals since then.

The former governor of Maryland hasn’t fared well in the polls in early primary states. O’Malley is well behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (50 points) and trails Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by 28 points in Iowa, According to Real Clear Politics. The Granite State hasn’t been kind to O’Malley either, as he is trailing Clinton by 36 points and frontrunner Sanders by 51.

The former mayor of Baltimore’s college plan stipulates that an O’Malley presidency would set a goal of “all students (having) access to a high-quality, debt-free college education within 5 years,” according to his campaign website.

He has also called for the government to tie tuition rates to median incomes, meaning a middle-class student would pay less in tuition than his or her upper class equivalent. O’Malley has called for the increase of Pell Grant and better preparation by high schools for their graduates in college level courses.

O’Malley boasts an F rating from the National Rifle Association and even went so far as to call them his greatest political enemy in the first democratic debate. His platform calls for mandatory background checks on all gun sales, especially from private sellers. Additionally, the former governor wants to raise the age requirement for handgun possession from 18 to 21, and said he supports the idea that anybody convicted of stalking should be permanently disqualified from owning a handgun.

His ambitious energy policy is headlined by his assertion that the U.S. can be 100 percent powered with clean energy by 2050. To accomplish this, the former governor wants to end all offshore drilling projects, reject the Keystone XL Pipeline idea, and invest in clean energy research.

O’Malley has indicated that he would have no problem using executive orders to accomplish this, according to his campaign website.

O’Malley’s disadvantage largely stems from lack of name recognition, as well as wildly enthusiastic support for his democratic rivals, Sanders and Clinton. A Gallup Poll released in June showed 78 percent of democratic voters were unfamiliar with O’Malley’s name or had no opinion of him.

But much like former senator Rick Santorum in 2012, despite the limited name recognition, O’Malley is campaigning hard. Santorum was mired in obscurity in the 2012 cycle, with early poll numbers reporting just 1 percent support in the early stages.

But Santorum ended up visiting all 99 Iowa counties by November of 2011 and defeated eventual nominee Mitt Romney, winning the Iowa caucus in a stunning upset.

Drake University’s Iowa Caucus Project reports that O’Malley has visited 33 Iowa counties as of early September and looks to keep up the pace.

“He’s the man with the experience … to do the job,” Iowa county democratic chair Larry Hodgden said in a Washington Post article.

Even though recent poll numbers aren’t exactly showing optimism, O’Malley remains faithful that he can defy expectations and become a real contender for the democratic nomination.

“I kind of like tough odds,” he said. “I’ve always been drawn to the tough fights. A tough fight is what tells me it’s a fight worth having.”