Hillary Clinton's most prominent Democratic rival is stepping up his attacks

AP207757384438AP/Charlie NeibergallFormer Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D)

The Democrat most actively working to challenge Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race just had some choice words when asked about Republican economic philosophy.

In a Monday NPR interview, O’Malley said he didn’t buy the “bulls—” claim frequently made by GOP White House hopefuls arguing that regulations hurt small business owners and not corporate America.

“I mean, our tax code’s been turned into Swiss cheese,” O’Malley said, according to a transcript. “And certainly the concentrated wealth and accumulated power and the systematic deregulation of Wall Street has led to this situation where the economy isn’t working for most of us. All of that is true. But it is not true that regulation holds poor people down or regulation keeps middle class from advancing. That’s kind of patently bulls—.” 

This R-rated broadside seems to be part of an escalating series of shots O’Malley has taken in recent days aimed at drawing a clear contrast between himself and Clinton. 

Following the NPR interview, O’Malley spokeswoman Lis Smith subsequently praised O’Malley’s response on Twitter for not using “cautious or poll-tested” language in his response. This could be an attempt to contrast O’Malley with Clinton, who is often criticised for allegedly charting an overly safe approach to presidential politics:

O’Malley himself used a similar approach last week when he was asked about Clinton’s positions on same-sex marriage and driver’s licenses. Clinton opposed driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants in 2008, but supports them now; she endorsed a state-by-state approach to expanding same-sex marriage last year, but recently said she wants the Supreme Court to find a constitutional right to marriage equality.

Clinton’s campaign insisted these weren’t substantive flip-flops. A campaign aide previously told Business Insider that Clinton backed same-sex marriage without caveats since 2013, when she announced her support. And the aide said President Barack Obama fundamentally changed the immigration policy landscape with executive actions shielding millions from deportation.

But O’Malley clearly doesn’t accept the Clinton camp’s interpretation, however, and he told NPR’s Steve Inskeep that Clinton had obviously been inconsistent. 

“She wasn’t in favour of those things before,”  he said. “I’m saying that marriage is a human right and I’m saying that there were many in, there were some including Secretary Clinton who said until very recently that marriage equality was a state right. And I’m saying that while we passed the drivers licence bill for immigrants, this is a new position for her to be in favour of it. And you know that as well.” 

RTR4CJCKReuters/Brian SnyderFormer Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

O’Malley further said “the bigger issue” is about principled political leadership. 

“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,” he said. “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.”

O’Malley, a former Baltimore mayor and city councilman, also suggested his “executive” experience would provide “apparent” contrasts with Clinton’s record, though he didn’t elaborate what they might be. 

“Well I think that Secretary Clinton and I bring different backgrounds and different experience to the task of getting things done. I have been a big city mayor and I have been a governor. In other words, I’ve been an executive and a progressive executive with a record of accomplishments. And Secretary Clinton will no doubt have her experience as a legislator and secretary of state to talk about on a number of issues. I think contrasts will become apparent,” he said. 

While isn’t exactly tearing into Clinton, O’Malley has been gradually ramping up his criticism of the front-runner in recent weeks. He has not yet announced a presidential campaign but, due to his aggressive travel schedule in early primary states, is widely expected to do so. Polls indicate Clinton is set to crush all of her likely primary rivals, including O’Malley.

Other potential Democratic candidates include Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Virginia), and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D).

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