Podesta Doesn't Deny Clinton Campaign Will Help O'Malley to Keep His Voters From Supporting Sanders

February 1, 2016

John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign for president, did not confirm or deny on Monday that his team would dispatch Clinton supporters to prop up candidate Martin O'Malley's voting numbers in the Iowa caucuses to ensure his supporters do not switch their vote to Bernie Sanders, Clinton's main challenger.

Podesta's ambiguous comments on the matter come as some reports have raised the possibility that the Clinton campaign may actively help O'Malley to keep his support from going to Sanders.

CNN's Ashleigh Banfield asked Podesta about the matter on her show Legal View.

"If it looks like that Martin O'Malley might fall below that critical 15 percent threshold, and he'll have to disperse his voters to either your candidate Hillary Clinton or to Bernie Sanders, and the worry is that they would go to Bernie Sanders, that you might actually dispatch some of your Hillary Clinton supporters over to Martin O'Malley's camp to keep him afloat ... Is there truth to that?" Banfield asked.

"That's what makes Iowa so interesting is it's so complicated," Podesta said. "What we are going to do is try to get every delegate we can for Hillary ... We are going to go out and try to get our voters to the caucuses and rack up the numbers that we need to win this outright tonight."

Banfield repeated her question, asking, "So are you saying to me you will not do that or that will be a strategic move if it's needed?"

"Each precinct is going to be different," Podesta said in response. "We've got leaders who have been trained to know what to do, but our goal is to get as many delegates as possible tonight."

Podesta added that he respects O'Malley's campaign and expects him to meet the necessary threshold.

The possibility of Clinton trying to help O'Malley is an issue because of the rules for the Democratic Iowa caucus, which is set to be held Monday night.

According to the rules, a candidate needs the support of at least 15 percent of caucus-goers in a given precinct to have "viability" in the race. If a candidate does not meet that threshold, then his or her supporters are free to support another candidate of their choosing.

Many commentators believe O'Malley voters would gravitate towards Sanders rather than Clinton, so if O'Malley does not meet the 15 percent mark in a precinct, those individuals backing him could then switch to Sanders and give the Senator from Vermont the edge needed to beat Clinton.

In such a scenario, the Clinton campaign may then send personnel from its team to those precincts to support O'Malley, or at least campaign for him, to keep O'Malley above 15 percent support.

The Clinton team reportedly has an app for volunteers that can track in real-time to which candidates the delegates are going in real time, allowing the campaign to quickly act and dispatch supporters to specific precincts and prop up O'Malley if it so chooses.

The most recent Iowa polls show Clinton and Sanders virtually tied around 45-50 percent, with O'Malley far behind around 3 percent.

O'Malley has asked his supporters to stay optimistic and caucus for him Monday night.