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Mon Feb 1, 2016, 12:24 PM

O’Malley refuses to play king – or queen – maker in Iowa.

Presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley, polling a distant third behind Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, urged supporters to “hold strong,” still seeing opportunity in Iowa’s complex caucuses system of voting.

Mr O’Malley was on Sunday neither willing to give up hope of a surprise or to play king – or queen – maker to the two leading candidates in Iowa’s caucuses on Monday night, the first contest in the US presidential election.

The former Maryland governor received 2 per cent support in the final poll before the caucuses, the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg survey considered the gold standard of polling in unpredictable Iowa.

At the front of the race, the two leaders are in a statistical tie with Mrs Clinton receiving 45 per cent and Mr Sanders 42 per cent.

The nature of Iowa’s Democratic caucuses mean that despite his low-polling numbers, Mr O’Malley can still carry influence in this key inaugural contest that can help or hinder another’s presidential bid.

As small as his support is in the polls, Mr O’Malley’s support could give Mrs Clinton or Mr Sanders an edge on the other.

The three Democratic candidates continued their final push over the weekend with last-minute events across the midwestern state. Mr Sanders and Mrs Clinton held large rallies in Des Moines on Sunday night.

When Democrats caucus in Iowa, they show support by moving to assigned areas in each caucus site, be it a school or public hall. Candidate representatives and caucus-goers argue for their candidates and try to sway family, friends and neighbours.
Candidates must secure 15 per cent of the voters present. Failing to meet that threshold means that candidate is eliminated and their supporters can then be wooed by other contenders.

News website Buzzfeed reported over the weekend that in a tactical move to weaken Mr Sanders, the Clinton campaign has instructed her Iowa caucus leaders in certain areas to throw support behind Mr O’Malley to block Mr Sanders getting some of his supporters.

“On caucus night, there’s a dynamic that usually defies all polling,” said Mr O’Malley canvassing outside a supporters house in a suburb of Des Moines in Iowa on Sunday afternoon.

“And that is the dynamic that happens after the first alignment, when people see opportunities to further their candidate’s goals often times by realigning and sending supporters to other camps.”

Surprise finish

Mr O’Malley told a small group of his supporters that he hoped Iowans might “upset the apple cart” as a gaggle of reporters and cameramen surrounded the candidate to grill him on what role he might play in the caucuses.

There was even an interview with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, a puppet featuring in a political satire show on online streaming service Hulu.

The 53-year-old has failed to make a mark in the Democratic race against Mrs Clinton, the one-time presumptive nominee, and Mr Sanders, whose upstart campaign has fired up grassroots progressives.

Mr O’Malley tried to draw comparisons to Jimmy Carter whose come-from-nowhere win here propelled him to the White House.
“The Iowa caucuses usually have a way of changing the dynamic of this race,” he said. “I am a challenger in the same vein as many other candidates that none of us ever hear of until they surprised in Iowa.”

Asked about his supporters being “an important commodity in Iowa right now” and how he would direct them if he failed to be viable, the former governor refused to see anything other than a surprise finish.

“I urge them to hold strong and fight for viability,” he said.

Voters at Mr O’Malley’s event were mixed on where his support might migrate to if he failed to reach the 15 per cent threshold.
“I believe they would be leaning more towards Bernie than Hillary,” said Aaron Guiter (43), a construction manager from Des Moines who turned up to hear O’Malley speak with his wife and four children.

Robin Heinemann (60), who runs Des Moines’s Shakespeare festival, believes Mr O’Malley’s supporters would be more compatible with Mrs Clinton because she is pragmatic and business-like.

“I will be arguing that if Hillary has more supporters than she needs to be viable or if Bernie has more supporters than he needs, then come over and join O’Malley so we can all keep talking,” she said.

Sitting in Mr O’Malley’s Iowa headquarters in Des Moines among volunteers and campaign posters, Boston city councillor Matt O’Malley is in Iowa less than 24 hours but he and two other volunteers have already knocked on about 300 doors canvassing for support.

“Caucuses are complex events where things change and we believe we have the best candidate, the right candidate and we are just making that our people that caucus for O’Malley and continue to do,” he said.

“We are going to do everything we can over the next 24 hours to grow our base of support and make sure that folks show up.”


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