LITTLE ROCK — Underdog Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley admitted Friday that some may see his confidence in his chances as delusional.

LITTLE ROCK — Underdog Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley admitted Friday that some may see his confidence in his chances as delusional.


"I know when a guy stands in front of you and says he’s running for president and he’s at 7 percent in the national polls and that the campaign is going very well, that there is a fine line between delusion and imagination," O’Malley said at a get-out-the-vote rally at Philander Smith College in Little Rock.


"But I am not delusional about this: People in our country are looking for a new leader," O’Malley told the audience of about 40 people. "There has never, ever been a time where the polls in December reflected what people decided to do once the Iowa caucuses happened, and then right on their heels comes New Hampshire."


The former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor told reporters after the rally, "Every year there’s an inevitable front runner, and once the voters have an opportunity to have their decision heard, then the race changes. And I believe this race is going to change once the Iowa caucuses roll around in another 58 days."


O’Malley said he is "gaining ground every day in Iowa, and at the same time I’m traveling around the country to set up the infrastructure of an organization so that we can succeed in the course of all of the primaries and win my party’s nomination.


Discussing what distinguishes him from the Democratic front runners, former Arkansas first lady Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, O’Malley said, "I think the biggest issue facing our nation is how we make our economy work again for all of us, how we get wages to go up. We’re not going to do it by taking our orders from Wall Street, nor are we going to do it by trying to scrap capitalism and replace it with socialism.


"What we need is new leadership — not the sort of leadership that drives us apart, but the leadership that brings us together for the common cause that all of us share, and that is to make wages go up again for people when they work hard. That’s what I’ve been able to do as a mayor and as a governor. I’ve been able to bring people together to get things done."


O’Malley said during the rally he supports clean energy, a higher minimum wage and equal pay for equal work between men and women. He said he has a plan to provide all students access to a debt-free college education within five years, a statement that drew applause from the audience of mostly college students.


Referring to Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., O’Malley said he got commonsense gun safety legislation passed in Maryland and said he believes he could do the same on a national level.


"We actually required universal background checks and fingerprints for the purchase of new guns, we put a ban on sales of combat assault weapons, closed the gun show loophole, banned the sale of magazines with more than 10 rounds in it, and … not a single hunter lost their privilege to hunt," he said.


O’Malley acknowledged that Republicans in Congress have opposed gun control but said but said he believes "there is a growing consensus in our country, a deepening understanding, that we’re the only developed nation on the planet that makes it as easy as we do now for people to buy combat assault weapons."


Also Friday, O’Malley was scheduled to attend a private fundraiser and the Arkansas Democratic Black Caucus’ annual Christmas Gala, both in Little Rock.


After the rally, Benjamin Jackson, a Philander Smith freshman from Gary, Ind., who called himself a future president, said O’Malley "blew my mind."


"He’s very different from Hillary. I didn’t like what Hillary said" in a September rally at Philander Smith, he said.


Jackson said he does not plan to vote for O’Malley, however, noting that he is a Republican.