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Sun Oct 25, 2015, 12:27 AM

Clinton, Sanders, O'Malley take the stage for Democrats' big night in Iowa.

'Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley urged party faithful in Iowa on Saturday to support a "new consensus for change" on gun control as he promoted his record in Maryland in an effort to draw distinctions with his better-known opponents.

The former two-term governor and Baltimore mayor delivered an energetic speech at the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson Dinner -- a key event in the presidential primary election calendar -- focusing a significant amount of time on guns and immigration.

O'Malley supporters believe both issues play to his strength as a former executive who steered legislation on gun control and immigration through the General Assembly. O'Malley's record of achieving those goals in Maryland has been a central theme of his long shot campaign.

"It's high time we find our backbone again as Democrats and stand up and say no to the NRA," O'Malley said at the dinner, speaking after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and before front runner Hillary Clinton. "It's only common sense."

The focus on guns -- though largely similar to his stump speech -- was one of the few instances where he directly called out his opponents. Sanders, in particular, has taken heat from O'Malley and Clinton for his more centrist voting record on the issue.

"Senator Sanders join me now. Secretary Clinton join me now," O'Malley said, "and together we can forge a new consensus for change."

The former governor recycled a few digs at Clinton, though they were subtle.

"A weather vane shifts its position every time the winds change," O'Malley said -- echoing a line he has used previously and aimed more directly at Clinton. "Effective leaders do not."

Despite what most analysts described as a solid performance at the first Democratic debate this month, O'Malley's polling has failed to budge from the single digits in early primary states. His most recent finance report showed his campaign had less than $1 million in the bank at the end of September.

O'Malley supporters have noted the 2007 Jefferson Jackson dinner was a turning point for Barack Obama, who as an Illinois senator and an underdog for the nomination used the stage to draw sharp contrasts with Clinton. Obama built on the positive reviews from his appearance, and marched to victory in Iowa and ultimately nationwide.

The O'Malley campaign pointed to Obama's success at the dinner in a fundraising email sent to supporters shortly before he took the stage, writing that the event is "the day they say changes presidential campaigns."

Still, Obama had support from roughly a quarter of Democratic voters nationwide at this point in 2007.

"A lot of people tell me that I face a tough fight in this race...I kind of like the tough fights," O'Malley said Saturday. "I know who I am, I know what I believe, and I am willing to fight for it."'


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