The Federal Election Commission said Thursday that the former Maryland governor had applied and been approved for the program.
The FEC’s matching funds program doubles O’Malley’s donations worth up to $250. But it also limits his primary spending to $48 million much less than Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will raise and spend. And O’Malley, under current year estimates, could spend just $1.8 million in Iowa, a state his campaign has identified as crucial to his chances and $960,300 in New Hampshire.
The move makes O’Malley the first major-party candidate since John Edwards in 2008 to accept public financing. Edwards’ campaign manager, Joe Trippi, told BuzzFeed that the move “is effectively the end of (O’Malley’s) campaign.”
“No campaign that is serious can win taking that money,” Trippi said.
O’Malley, who has raised more than $3 million but ended September with just $800,000 in his campaign’s coffers, qualified for the FEC’s program by raising at least $100,000 including at least $5,000 from 20 states.
O’Malley was a forceful presence onstage at Saturday’s Democratic primary debate in Des Moines, but his poor poll standings have seriously hampered his ability to raise money, which means matching funds may be only a temporary blessing.
‘With hardly any income coming in, he’s got to restructure the campaign so he has the resources to survive until Iowa,’ one veteran Democratic consultant with ties to O’Malley told The Post.
Even without the financial troubles, O’Malley faces an uphill battle to even make it onto the primary battlefield in Iowa, since most precincts only accept candidates with at least 15 percent support from voters.
The most recent average of national polls on the Democratic race, as compiled by Real Clear Politics, finds O’Malley at 3.6 percent, far behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 32 percent and front-runner Hillary Clinton at 55.4 percent.
O’Malley is sending his 30-person staff based in Baltimore to Iowa, where the Feb. 1 caucus represents the first contest in the presidential primary process. O’Malley’s campaign said the former governor has spent far more time in Iowa than either Clinton or Sanders, and is poised for a surprise showing.
Indeed, according to records by The Des Moines Register, O’Malley has spent 40 days in Iowa during the campaign – more than Clinton’s 26 or Sanders’s 35.
‘We see that there is an opening for him in Iowa and the other early states, and we really want to focus our resources there,’ Lis Smith, a deputy campaign manager, told the paper.
‘We’re doing this because we see an opportunity.’
His financial challenge has been evident since third-quarter reports showed he’d raised just $1.3 million in that three-month period well behind Clinton’s $30 million and Sanders’ $26 million.
The possibilities in Iowa are slim largely because of the complicated rules governing the caucuses, O’Malley risks not getting on the scoreboard at all on Feb. 1 unless his support builds markedly. In most of the 1,682 precincts, a candidate must receive 15 percent backing or their performance is recorded as zero. O’Malley has remained in the single digits in Iowa polling.