What Does The Democratic Underdog Need to Win?

Despite setbacks on the campaign trail and a seriously stacked deck when it comes to campaign resources, Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley appeared the ever-hopeful underdog, tweeting "we must win this election" late Wednesday. With the fourth Democratic Debate less than 10 days away, O'Malley's campaign appears in dire straits, causing some to question whether he'll be able to maintain the participant threshold of earning a minimum of 1 percent support in three major national polls in the six weeks prior to each debate.

Although O'Malley is likely qualified to participate in the fifth Democratic debate — slated to take place Feb. 11 in Wisconsin — his podium at the sixth, and final, debate could be at risk should recent setbacks cause his poll numbers to drop. In polls, the former governor of Maryland has been stuck mostly in the single digits, save for an Iowa Democratic Presidential Caucus poll released Dec. 23, 2015, by Gravis that showed O'Malley garnering 10 percent of voters in the state. More recently, however, a New Hampshire Democratic Primary poll from Public Policy Polling showed O'Malley at 3 percent in that state, while polls in California and Nevada showed him at 1 percent in both states.

O'Malley's recent failure to qualify for the Ohio primary ballot could prove to be a detrimental setback for the underdog given his already limited exposure to voters. The Ohio Secretary of State said O'Malley failed to submit the required 1,000 valid signatures needed to make the ballot, The Wall Street Journal reported in December. Only 772 of the 1,175 signatures submitted by O'Malley's campaign were found to be valid. The Democratic candidate also failed to meet Monday's deadline for being a write-in candidate on the Ohio ballot, CBS Baltimore has reported. Ohio is considered to be a critical state for primary elections.

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Compared to Clinton and Sanders, O'Malley is at a significant disadvantage due to a lack of money, exposure and media space. While Clinton raised $30 million and Sanders took in $26.2 million, O'Malley has managed a meager $1.3 million in funds. A fact that has likely contributed to his lack of ads in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The former governor has opted for a strategy that focuses on more face-time and less (well, zero) air time. Yet even with his recent push into the double digits on one poll, O'Malley has barely registered with Iowa voters despite spending more days and organizing more campaign events in the state than his rivals.

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In fact, for some, the news of O'Malley's Ohio misstep didn't come as the staggering game changer it might have meant for other candidates. Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia told The Baltimore Sun:

It's a disaster for him, obviously. But let's not oversell it. I don't know anyone who takes Martin O'Malley's candidacy seriously at this point. He was long ago eclipsed by Bernie Sanders as Hillary Clinton's main challenger. He's done nothing to change that.