NBC finally has its chance to host a 2016 presidential primary debate. Martin O’Malley has made the cut for Sunday’s democratic face-off–the 4th of this cycle–joining Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Martin O Malley has qualified for the final debate before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, NBC executives announced on Thursday.
That makes three candidates who will be onstage: Mr. O’Malley, Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders. The debate will take place in prime time on Sunday in Charleston, S.C. The city is also the site of the Republican presidential primary debate, put on by Fox Business Network, on Thursday night.
There had been some doubt whether O’Malley would be included under polling criteria announced by NBC last week, but the network included the former Maryland governor, along with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, when it made its formal announcement Thursday. The threshold for making the debate was a 5 percent average in five recent polls recognized by NBC News either nationally or in one of the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina, raising the prospect that Mr. O’Malley would not qualify.
“The forum will be the presidential hopefuls’ final chance to face each other directly and make their cases to a national audience before the first ballots are cast in Iowa and New Hampshire,” NBC noted.
Martin O’Malley will reportedly join Clinton and Sanders in Sunday’s debate. According to The Hill, the criteria for the January 17 debate requires candidates to be polling at an average of at least 5 percent, but it would appear NBC has rounded up; O’Malley, who is at 2.4 percent nationally, polled at 4.6 percent in the five most recent accepted Iowa polls. For comparison’s sake, Clinton is currently polling at 42 percent in Iowa; Sanders at 40.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, ahead of the debate Tuesday, made the case that he has been steady in his views on U.S. trade deals and other policy issues while Clinton, a former secretary of state, has flip-flopped.
“People will have to contrast my consistency against the secretary’s,” Sanders said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Sanders, Clinton’s closest challenger, also argued that he has never liked a single U.S. trade deal, while Clinton last week opposed President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, which she backed as the country’s top diplomat.
“I didn’t shift positions right on the eve of the first Democratic debate,” challenger and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said about Clinton on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Clinton also has shifted her support for same-sex marriage and more recently opposed the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, moves largely considered attempts to appeal to the more liberal or progressive voters attracted to Sanders, a Socialist.
O’Malley, who also opposes the TPP trade deal, is polling at about 1 or 2 percent, according to essentially every major survey.
O’Malley, Clinton and Sanders who are all calling for more gun control in the wake of another mass shooting on campus — will be joined on the debate stage in Las Vegas by former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and former Rhode Island governor and Sen. Lincoln Chaffee.