The rules for the Democratic Iowa caucus have an additional quirk not found in the Republican Party: the viability threshold. Candidates must hit 15% in the precinct, otherwise they are unable to receive any delegates from that precinct.
Former Governor Martin O’Malley and his supporters could be critical with this development as polls have shown O’Malley around 3% in the state. O’Malley’s support, like every candidate, fluctuates throughout the state, but it seems likely that he will not meet the threshold in many areas.
This development is particularly interested when viewing the latest poll from the Des Moines Register, the gold standard in Iowa polling. In it, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leads Senator Bernie Sanders by three percentage points. O’Malley has the support of 3% of Iowa Democrats. O’Malley and his supporters could balance or tip the scales in Iowa, if they so choose.
When O’Malley was asked about this during the CNN Democratic town hall, he told his supporters to hold strong. Caucus-goers do not necessarily have to change to a different candidate, they can continue with a candidate below the threshold.
Another option is for those caucus-goers to join their second choice. Polling has indicated that O’Malley supporters are evenly split between Clinton and Sanders. Here O’Malley could have come into play if he backed a second choice. During the town hall, he spoke about new leadership and some have construed that comment as an endorsement of Sanders.
The third possibility for caucus-goers is aligning with supporters of other candidates that are under the threshold. However, there are only three candidates for the Democratic side, so this is not likely to be a possibility.