CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is considering a Democratic presidential bid, declined Friday to criticize likely primary opponent Hillary Rodham Clinton for her exclusive use of private email while serving as secretary of state.
"I don't know what the rules are that govern the email procedures on the federal level, and I'll leave that to others to explain," O'Malley told reporters after delivering a short address to Merrimack County Democrats at a Concord bookstore.
Republicans have criticized Clinton over her use of private email and earlier reports that the Clinton Foundation accepted donations from foreign governments while she was in the Obama administration. Given multiple chances, O'Malley declined to find fault with the former senator and first lady and instead defended her character.
"I can tell you in any of my dealings with her or with the president that they have always been decent and straight up and honest with me, and I also know for a fact that that foundation's done a lot of good work," he said. "I'll leave it to them to answer more specific things."
Neither Clinton nor O'Malley has made a formal announcement of a 2016 campaign. The former Maryland governor says he will decide in the spring but rules out seeking the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.
Clinton is considered the front-runner among possible Democratic candidates. In New Hampshire, which hosts the nation's first presidential primary, prominent Democrats are already backing her candidacy. A number of activists who heard O'Malley on Friday said they liked what he had to say and want a competitive primary.
If he runs for president, O'Malley said his candidacy will be about "breaking with the failed policies of the past" from both parties. He criticized Democrats for going along with Wall Street deregulation in the past and faulted President Barack Obama for not raising the threshold for overtime pay during his time in office. On immigration, O'Malley said the party needs to push harder for reform.
"I think we need to make it an economic imperative as well as a security imperative and we cannot give up," he said. "I think sometimes we try to tap dance around the very things that define the principles of our nation, and it's what turns people off and has them sit at home instead of going out to vote."