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Martin O'Malley hit Hillary Clinton for waiting until last week to announce her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline

He said Clinton's email controversy is reason for Democrats to change the topic with more presidential debates

Washington CNN  — 

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley criticized Sunday Hillary Clinton’s delay in announcing her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, saying she shouldn’t “wait for focus groups” before taking a stand on issues.

Clinton, who presided over the beginning of a State Department review of the project as President Barack Obama’s first secretary of state, said she wanted to give the department time to complete that review – but ran out of patience last week and announced her opposition.

O’Malley, who is challenging Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, touted his public opposition “more than a year ago” to the Canada-to-Texas project in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

“That’s what real leadership is about. That’s the sort of new leadership that people are looking for,” O’Malley said. “Not the sort of leadership that waits for poll numbers or for focus groups or puts a finger to the wind to see which way public consensus is going. No, that’s not leadership.”

O’Malley, who registered just 2% the latest CNN/ORC national poll, said he thinks there are still “legitimate questions” Clinton must also answer about her use of a private email server during her four years as secretary of state.

But he used that topic to turn to his push for the Democratic National Committee to sanction more than six Democratic debates.

“That’s why we need to have debates,” he said. “Otherwise, our party is being defined by Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. And it’s not good for our party and it’s not good for our country.”