Former Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley is urging Democrats not to be afraid of President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE.
"Donald Trump is a self-basting turkey," said O’Malley, who recently launched a new PAC focused on helping Democrats win state and local races. "A lot of people who voted for him are embarrassed about his behavior."
In a recent interview with The Hill, O’Malley explained why he believes his new PAC can yield big results for his party — and why Trump doesn’t represent the future of the United States.
Pointing to a Democratic sweep in local elections last month, the former Maryland governor said his party’s economic message is steering the country back on course after Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHeller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 MORE’s loss to Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
"I was elated, but not surprised by New Jersey and Virginia," O’Malley said, referring to two of the states in which Democrats saw major victories in November.
O’Malley’s Win Back Your State PAC will focus on getting national Democratic names to share their political assets with other local candidates.
He says he's been leading by example, stumping across the country for local candidates, doing what he calls an "a priori good: Helping other people win back their states to save our country."
"I hope every other Democrat with a national profile does the same," he said.
Asked whether the strategy will pay off, O’Malley, who is also a former mayor of Baltimore, said it already has.
He referenced an Oklahoma Senate special election last week, where Democrat Allison Ikley-Freeman beat Republican Brian O’Hara by 31 votes in a conservative district.
"When I talked to Allison [I was] almost giddy," he said.
O'Malley said there's a sense of urgency for Democrats — who, "asleep at the wheel," have lost numerous local legislative seats and dozens of governorships since 2010 — to start recovering lost ground at that level.
"This is the turning point, not 2020," he said.
Still, O'Malley admits Democrats misjudged the 2016 electorate.
"Quite honestly, I had a sense in my gut that we were headed for a very bad result. That's why I had to try," he said.
After finishing a distant third in the Democratic primaries, O'Malley campaigned for Clinton and "did everything to campaign against Trump."
In his interview with The Hill, O'Malley downplayed the permanence of Trump's appeal to voters, saying Americans in 2016 were "looking for a sledgehammer" to bust open the political system and that some “were willing to overlook horrible things."
And O'Malley said that while there are some, such as Trump’s former chief strategist Stephen Bannon, who subscribe to the president’s brand of nationalism, most Trump supporters voted for him “because they were angry.”
He said Americans are instead more concerned about the economy.
"'Jobs, jobs, jobs.' That's what these candidates that are winning in special elections [are campaigning on]," he said, calling his proposed Democratic message a "sharp contrast to racist, immigrant-bashing, charlatan Donald Trump."
"This Trump presidency is a bad detour, it's not our journey," O'Malley said.
The former governor said the Democrats' local election wins will help hone a message that extends beyond the traditional party strongholds in coastal cities.
"I'm very excited about 2018," he said. "I see this party regenerating itself — not from Washington."
"I don't believe in permanent blue states or red states; I don't believe in flyover states," he added.
O'Malley said Democrats must approach Trump's brand of conservatism — he unambiguously calls Trump's campaign style "fascism" — without fear.
"The politics that Donald Trump practices, scapegoating from whole groups of people, are the classic tactics of fascism," O'Malley said.
"We have to call out the politics of fear. We need not be afraid, we cannot be afraid if we are to succeed.”
O'Malley, who didn't rule out a second presidential run in 2020, said Trump's rhetoric is no longer resonating with a majority of voters.
"I don't think most Americans buy it. Certainly the people of Virginia didn't.”