LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Former Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O'Malley said Tuesday that voters in this year's midterm election want to hear more about "kitchen table" economic issues like health care and college costs than they do about the president.
Campaigning on behalf of fellow Democrats in predominantly Republican Arkansas, the former Maryland governor said voters are responding to candidates who want to find ways to bring people together on those issues. O'Malley has been supporting candidates through his political action committee, which he launched last year to support a "new generation" of state and local Democrats running for office.
"When they knock on people's doors, they talk to voters that are already getting clubbed over the head with 24/7 Donald Trump coverage," O'Malley told The Associated Press before speaking at an event with Democratic congressional hopeful Clarke Tucker. "So what our candidates are talking about are the kitchen-table economic issues: rising costs of health care, rising costs of college, paychecks that aren't keeping pace with inflation even as people work harder and sometimes take on, for the first time, three jobs in a family instead of just two."
O'Malley praised Tucker, who is trying to unseat Republican incumbent French Hill in a district that covers Little Rock and seven central Arkansas counties. Arkansas hasn't sent a Democrat to the U.S. House since 2012.
O'Malley also campaigned with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jared Henderson, who is running against incumbent Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Polls have shown Hutchinson, a former congressman and Homeland Security official, as generally popular.
"He's been around a long time, but he has no vision and he has no plans for the future and absent that, there's not a reason for keeping him around a lot longer," O'Malley said in comments that were later echoed by Henderson. "What Arkansas needs is what our whole country needs, and that's new leadership."
Hutchinson dismissed the criticism from O'Malley.
"Bringing in Martin O'Malley is certainly consistent with the National Democratic agenda but out of touch with Arkansas values," he said in a statement, adding that O'Malley was "one of the most liberal" governors in the country.
O'Malley ran for the party's Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, but dropped out after the Iowa caucuses. He said he'll make a decision on whether to run again in 2020 sometime after the November election.