Trevor Noah can't save Martin O'Malley: The "sexiest" candidate is in over his head

O'Malley had lovely words and little action on last night's "The Daily Show"

Published October 20, 2015 12:28PM (EDT)

  (Comedy Central)
(Comedy Central)

Last night on “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” the third-stringer candidate—at best—for the Democratic Party managed to finally get through all of his talking points in his minutes-long interview with the host. Former Governor Martin O’Malley did not make much of an impact at last week’s debate, where he appeared to be running for vice president; here with Noah, and away from the watchful eye of Secretary Hillary Clinton, he was an animated and possibly even competent candidate for president. O’Malley is in the odd position of being neither progressive enough for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ supporters or practical enough for Clinton’s; his platform revolves mostly around responsible gun control and reinstating Glass-Steagall, which are both pipe dreams in today’s political climate.

But in conversation with Noah—who has become an increasingly comfortable interviewer, less than a month into his job—O’Malley was able to be a bit more approachable and a bit more firm. Noah observed that O’Malley had been called the sexiest candidate, and his response was to look down at the desk and blush, in either bashfulness or a good approximation of it. But when Noah’s patter on the topic struck him as having gone on too long, O’Malley found a way to deftly pivot to Donald Trump. Perhaps it was one of four sentences he’d memorized before he went on stage, but it worked: As a comedy host, he said to Noah, “you must be the only immigrant in America excited for Donald Trump.”

O’Malley says really lovely things, but it’s hard to feel that he means them; he’s almost too polished, too nice, too platonic-ideal-of-a-candidate. Almost everything he said to Noah was carefully on point—which both advanced the image he wanted to present of himself, but also advanced the general impression of his demeanor as rehearsed and couched in spin. Most of Noah’s questions gave him an opportunity to fall back onto certain studied phrases, and though both O’Malley and the audience were very pleased to finally get the ideas out, all told, it’s just a really reasonable platform without any fireworks or tenuous connections to reality.

O’Malley, not not running for vice-president, also offered one single shot at Clinton, over her economic policy: “We haven’t delivered on, as Democrats, protecting Main Street from Wall Street. I have the independence to get that done—and I do not believe Hillary Clinton does.” He added, “She could not bring herself to say… that we need to separate commercial banking from speculative banking,” barely omitting the observation that Clinton’s husband, when he was President, signed the bill repealing Glass-Steagall.

And he ended with the most peculiar line—“I represent our better days.” He elaborated that he was “a vision of a country that says we’re all in this together,” before concluding with, “An economy isn’t money, it’s people.” Fine words. Very fine words. I have no idea what any of them mean.

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By Sonia Saraiya

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