Martin O'Malley May Not Qualify for Upcoming Dem Debate His low poll numbers could be a huge problem By Michael Harthorne, Newser Staff Posted Jan 8, 2016 5:34 PM CST 52 comments Comments Martin O'Malley is "dangerously close" to not qualifying for the next Democratic presidential debate on Jan. 17. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (Newser) – The Democratic Party's official third wheel—Martin O'Malley—may not qualify for the next Democratic presidential debate on Jan. 17, the New York Times reports. And CNN says he's "dangerously close" to watching the debate on NBC with the rest of us. Which is ironic, as O'Malley has been the candidate most persistent in his demands for more debates, the Times reports. “To qualify, candidates must reach an average of 5% either nationally or in Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina in the five most recent polls recognized by NBC News," the Times quotes NBC's rules. O'Malley is right at 5% in Iowa, but in the three most recent polls he's only averaging 4.3%, CNN reports. He's well below the cutoff everywhere else. An O'Malley staffer recently accused the media of wanting to focus only on Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, Yahoo reports. And the Times notes it would probably be better for NBC's ratings if they could bill the debate as a head-to-head between Sanders and Clinton. But O'Malley is getting plenty of support—including from NBC itself, which said it may round up his poll numbers—to be on stage Jan. 17 in South Carolina. A representative from the DNC expects O'Malley to make the cut. And representatives from both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns tell CNN they want O'Malley to take part in the debate. If O'Malley somehow fails to qualify, it would be a "huge blow" to his campaign with only days to go before the Iowa caucuses, the Times reports.