The downtown hotel ballroom was far from filled to capacity. The applause? Tepid, for the most part.
Martin O'Malley arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday night to address the Young Democrats of America convention, where many roaming the corridors of the Millennium Biltmore Hotel had donned stickers in support of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the commanding front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“There is a tremendous generational shift going on in our country, and that is why I wanted to be here,” said the former Maryland governor. “And sadly most of the established leaders of our own party don't even see that it's coming. What does it tell you that six months out from the first primaries and caucuses ... I am the only one of our presidential candidates that took the time and wanted to be here with you?”
O'Malley, who in an average of several national polls is registering around 2%, delved into his stump speech, calling for, among other things, an increased federal minimum wage and immigration reform that allows citizenship for young people brought to the country illegally.
While his populist message is one that echoes that of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, he's failed to catch on with similar support from liberals looking for an alternative to Clinton. Earlier this month Sanders held a rally near USC that drew nearly 27,500 people -- among the largest political rallies of the 2016 cycle.
In a brief interview following his address, O'Malley -- optimistic and charismatic -- shook off the fact of his long-shot candidacy.
“When we announced in this race it wasn't because I thought I'd be at 50% at the announcement,” said O'Malley, noting increases in polling numbers in some early-nominating states. “I've been in uphill battles before ... I actually do better in tough fights.”
When asked whether the controversy surrounding Clinton's use of a private email server hurts her candidacy, O'Malley -- who did not mention her by name in his address -- declined chime in.
“I'd like to see us start having debates,” he said. “In the absence of debates then we are left with the daily news about our contest being all about questions that only she and her lawyers can answer about her email. I don't really have an answer for that.”
O'Malley's visit to Los Angeles came on the heels of a stop in San Francisco, where he sat in a panel discussion with local tech leaders.
As he wrapped his speech inside the Biltmore ballroom, O'Malley urged the young people in attendance to continue in civic engagement -- and, perhaps, even help out his campaign.
“Within this very hall,” he said, “are the leaders of the Democratic Party.”