This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal

If former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's speech to a firefighters' union on Tuesday was a test of his political ability, a talk he gave on Wednesday was a test of his governance.

O'Malley was at the Brookings Institution on Wednesday to talk about "data-driven government"—a subject he is well-versed in from his time as Baltimore mayor and governor of Maryland. During his time in office, he used data metrics to improve government's response to problems as serious as crime and as mundane as potholes.

The Baltimore program, called CitiStat, deployed 200 police officers to areas of the city where crime was most rampant. And it's a strategy that paid off, driving down major crimes in Baltimore faster than other large cities.

"We brought crime down by 43 percent. We reduced the number of children poisoned by lead in our city by 71 percent," he said.

O'Malley compared his administration's approach to the "Moneyball" strategy in baseball, where data analysis is used to optimize a team's success.

"Put your fielders where the past performance of their hitters say they are most likely to hit the ball. Put your police where crime is most likely to happen," O'Malley said. "That's the deployment of resources for maximum effect. That's goal-driven, data-driven thinking. It helps win ball games. And it helps make a city safer."

The idea of employing such a data-forward strategy appeals to both Democrats and Republicans. And it's an idea that's increasingly gaining traction in national politics. But on Wednesday, it was an idea that reporters at the Brookings event couldn't care less about.

After O'Malley gave his remarks, the press was much more intent on asking him about a certain type of government data—emails—in the wake of Hillary Clinton's press conference Tuesday addressing her email controversy. It was a line of questioning that O'Malley likely expected, but clearly did not want to talk about. Or at least, that's what he wants people to think.

"I'm not an expert on federal requirements or state requirements, and I'm, frankly, a little sick of the email drama," O'Malley said. "But in our state, whether you used a personal email or a public email or a carrier pigeon, it was all a public record subject to disclosure in response to any FOIA."

He said that, while in office, he responded to Freedom of Information Act requests and sometimes had to turn over emails, and joked that the "colorful language" he employed in some of his emails may have caused his mother "great embarrassment." But he noted that, unlike the federal government, Maryland has no such archiving requirement for government work-related emails.

At one point, a reporter from the New York Post asked O'Malley if he was "satisfied" with the explanation Clinton gave on Tuesday for why she did not use an official email account. He dodged it.

"I respect your interest in this issue," O'Malley said. "I didn't watch the press conference yesterday, so I don't know. I'll leave that to you to figure out. I didn't watch it"—he took a beat—"because I was working."

O'Malley already appears somewhat weary of answering questions about Clinton. After a string of Clinton email-related questions, O'Malley turned to the next reporter and semi-jokingly asked, "You're not going to ask about emails, are you?" But, if the Republican side of the bench serves as an example, he'd better get used to it.

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.