O'Malley huddles with House Dems

O'Malley huddles with House Dems
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Martin O'Malley huddled with House Democrats on Tuesday to pitch his long-shot bid for the White House.

The former Maryland governor faced an audience consisting largely of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump lashes out at 'rigged' Russia probe in pair of tweets Clapper: 'More and more' of Steele dossier proving to be true Republicans are strongly positioned to win Congress in November MORE supporters.

Still, even those who've already endorsed the former secretary of State praised O'Malley's leadership chops and progressive agenda. 

Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, characterized O'Malley as “an old friend.” And Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraFederal court rules Trump’s Education Dept violated privacy laws Carmakers to Trump: 'Climate change is real' Mugshots.com’s alleged co-owners arrested, charged with extortion MORE (Calif.), who heads the Caucus, said the Maryland liberal received a hero's welcome. 

“Not only was he well received, he received a standing ovation,” Becerra said. “So he's considered a great friend, a great Democrat and one of the best governors that we've seen in quite some time.”

Both Becerra and Crowley have endorsed Clinton.

Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellWATCH: Trump “spygate” is effort to “undermine a lawful investigation,” Dem Rep says What's wrong with the Democratic Party? Just look at California Washington governor to make Iowa debut MORE (Calif.), the only congressional Democrat to back O'Malley, highlighted his track record as Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor. He emphasized O'Malley's push for tougher gun laws, an issue that's gained prominence since last Friday's deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado. 

“He helped marshal through some of the most sweeping gun violence measures any state has taken, from universal background checks, to licensing and fingerprinting, to also limits on ammunition purchases,” Swalwell said. “He is also calling to reduce gun violence by 50 percent over the next 10 years, setting a clear deadline and a goal for our country to aspire to, but also meet, so that these types of tragedies do not continue to haunt and hurt people in our country.”

O'Malley's visit came as his campaign has struggled to dent the commanding lead enjoyed by Clinton, the overwhelming front-runner, and her top rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who's attracted much of the liberal support O'Malley is aiming for. Those dynamics are reflected in the congressional endorsement numbers. Clinton has the backing of 169 Democrats — including 132 House members — while Sanders has been endorsed by the lower chamber's two leading liberals.

Swalwell promoted the 52-year-old O'Malley as a fresh face who can appeal to younger voters in ways his older Democratic opponents cannot. O'Malley's message to House Democrats Tuesday, Swalwell said, emphasized that generational divide.

“They're hungry for a new leader who is proven, who has a progressive record of actually accomplishing stuff,” Swalwell said of voters. “So he put forward his accomplishments, his aspirations as president, and will leave it to members of the caucus and the people of the country to draw distinctions.”