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A Rough Week For 2 Potential Presidential Candidates

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley canceled a trip to Europe to try to be part of the solution in Baltimore. That got sidetracked when reporters picked up on comments from city residents who criticized his "tough on crime" policing policies.

It's been a tough week for a couple of candidates looking to break through on the presidential stage, namely Chris Christie and Martin O'Malley.

First, in New Jersey, David Wildstein, a former Christie ally and former Port Authority official, pleaded guity Friday to charges related to the "Bridgegate" scandal that closed several lanes of traffic to the George Washington Bridge over four days in 2013, ensnaring cars in massive backups.

The New Jersey governor continues to deny any role in the incident. "I know what the truth is, so I'm not the least bit concerned about it," Christie said Wednesday in typical defiant Christie fashion.

In Maryland, O'Malley, the former governor, was in the news for all the wrong reasons relating to the outbreak of violence in Baltimore following the death of a man after his arrest. O'Malley was scheduled to be in Europe, looking to burnish foreign-policy credentials ahead of a likely 2016 presidential bid. But, as the former mayor of Baltimore from 1999 to 2007, he canceled the trip and headed to the Charm City to try to be part of the solution.

That got sidetracked when reporters picked up on an exchange between O'Malley and a couple of men who heckled him about his "tough on crime" policing policies as mayor.

"You made a lot of promises," one man shouted.

"And I did the best that I could," O'Malley responded.

"In what community? Not in the black community!"

A couple of men on motorcycles rode by using an expletive and saying, "This is his fault," and they questioned why any residents or community leaders would shake his hand.

After a CNN interview Thursday, this was the headline: "Martin O'Malley: 'We're all responsible' for Gray's death."

These aren't good headlines and storylines for candidates looking to break through. For Christie, his fall has been remarkable. As recently as January 2014, right in the middle of the bridge controversy, he led in hypothetical 2016 GOP primary polls. Today, he barely registers, polling below Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio.

In February, Christie dismissed the polls. "Is the election next week?" Christie asked rhetorically at the Conservative Political Action Conference. "I'm not worried about what the polls say 21 months before we elect the president."

But the months keep ticking away.

O'Malley was positioning himself as a viable, more liberal alternative to Hillary Clinton. But the incident in Baltimore is shedding light on some of his policing policies as Baltimore mayor that cut against the message he wants to deliver to the very people who could give him a lane against Clinton.

O'Malley says he will decide by the end of May whether he will officially get in, but the timing of Baltimore couldn't be worse for him.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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