By CHRISTOPHER WEAVER
DENVER (Aug. 25, 2008) - Gov. Martin O'Malley welcomed Maryland delegates to Denver over breakfast Monday, but stepped aside as Rep. Elijah Cummings, an early Obama supporter, pledged that his state would be a shining example of party unity in the convention.
"A reporter was asking me the question, was Maryland unified?" Cummings said. "I made it abundantly clear that we are and that we are going to be the role model for the nation."
Unlike Cummings, O'Malley, Sen. Barbara Mikulski and eight other Maryland party leaders endorsed Hillary Clinton, while Obama, who won the popular vote by double-digits, received only 11 endorsements from Maryland super-delegates during the primaries. Other leaders, including Sen. Benjamin Cardin and Rep. Chris Van Hollen didn't endorse Obama until after he was the presumed nominee in June.
At the breakfast, O'Malley said the country is in trouble, and Maryland Democrats are "going to do everything in our power to turn things around because yes, we believe we can," borrowing Obama's campaign slogan.
Cummings used his five-minute speech to talk about big improvements in civil rights and the quality of American life he has seen since his impoverished childhood in South Carolina.
But despite that progress, "we can do better than a president not being honest with us," Cummings said. "We can do better than having people who are dying because we have health care here and people there and we can't marry the two so people can be well."
"Obama and his new sidekick Biden are the ones to carry us to that point," Cummings said.
O'Malley also arranged a surprise appearance by another early Obama supporter, and his first boss in the political business, former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart. O'Malley worked in Hart's unsuccessful 1984 and 1988 campaigns for the presidency.
In the Senate, Hart was "a voice advocating a more enlightened engagement with our neighbors around the world," O'Malley said. Hart's a progressive who embraced military reform, and perhaps more importantly as the convention commences, "was with Barack Obama from the start," O'Malley said, to applause.
O'Malley didn't mention his initial support for Clinton. Hart, though, alluded to Clinton's losing bid, saying even "campaigns that don't succeed make contributions." His failed 1984 campaign gave him and his supporters enough national exposure to keep important issues on the table, he said. In Hart's case, those include domestic security and energy policy.
Alice Torriente, the chair of Baltimore Women for Obama, said Hart's message resonates with her because the former senator's favorite issues, like the environment and national security, are close to home for Marylanders.
"We're close to the capital and anything that happens over there could affect us," Torriente said. "And there's the Chesapeake Bay, of course."
Capital News Service contributed to this report.