Many times, reporters get to go to stuff like this for free because of a broad Washington commitment to a transparent democracy. (I'm just kidding.) Sometimes campaigns let reporters into their fundraisers because they hope the media attention will help them get more donors. But on Thursday night, no dice.
I asked Lis Smith, O'Malley's spokeswoman, why reporters weren't allowed in, and she told me it was to make sure there was room (and the right mood) for the 400 people who had bought tickets. The event was being held at the Josephine Butler Parks Center in Washington's Adams Morgan neighborhood. And Makenzie Delmotte, the building's events coordinator, estimated at least 300 were there.
Space may have been at a premium, but, to my knowledge, I was one of only two reporters waiting outside. The second reporter showed up at the tail end of the festivities.
And never mind that the concert was hardly a secret. O'Malley's team livestreamed his performance on Meerkat—a new web application which lets users "tweet live video." (It's "a thing" now, as Jeb Bush and Rand Paul have also used it to livestream a speech or interviews with SXSW participants.)
But it's their event, and their rules, so I waited outside. Inside, the attendees were hosted by O'Malley's PAC's Young Leaders Council, who'd induced guests to shell out for an event billed as "a way for young people to get together to discuss policy and politics with the governor and grow our network by bringing friends and colleagues into the fold," according to the event invite.
But from where I was standing, little of that could be seen. All that was visible from 15th Street was a yellow mansion bedecked in 10 "Martin O'Malley" posters, the occasional flash of a camera, and the near-constant crowd on the second-story balcony overlooking Meridian Park. And if the crowd inside was excited about a would-be President Martin O'Malley, the enthusiasm, besides the occasional audible "woots" of encouragement, hadn't gone past those walls. "What's he running for?" one passerby asked me. "Isn't he Maryland?" asked another.
If that lack of recognition, combined with a lack of interest from the press in staking out his event, strikes you as a bad sign for an aspiring presidential candidate, you're not wrong. It's made all the more striking when you consider the status of Hillary Clinton, the soon-to-be candidate O'Malley would have to beat to get the nomination. Clinton makes news with a tweet, and when she goes to speak to an association of camp counselors, reporters write about that, too.
But, a confession: I came Thursday night knowing my chances of getting in were slim. I'd asked in the weeks leading up to the event if I would be allowed to watch, and I'd been told every time that it was closed to press. So while my chances were not quite upset-over-Clinton slim, O'Malley and I on Thursday night were both on quixotic quests.