In eastern Iowa City, the loneliest thing you can be is a Martin O’Malley supporter. The caucus for precinct 17 is being held in a local high school auditorium where Hillary Clinton supporters are asked to sit on the right side of the room, with Bernie Sanders supporters on the left. The room is already overflowing.
By contrast, O’Malley supporters are asked to go upstairs to the auditorium balcony. Half an hour before the caucus was due to begin, there wasn’t a single one of them.
“Are you for O’Malley? Oh you’re an observer,” said disappointed precinct captain Kevin Kummer when BuzzFeed News ventured upstairs to see what it’s like to support the forgotten third candidate in the Democratic presidential race.
“There’s more observers than O’Malley supporters,” he stoically observed, holding a batch of unused O’Malley stickers.
Despite the very real risk O’Malley will fail to make the 15% threshold in this precinct, Kummer was upbeat about his decision to stick with the former Maryland politician: “People are frustrated with the shift right in our county.”
“When the three candidates came I knew of Hillary and Bernie but I hadn’t heard of O’Malley. I went to hear him a couple of times and the things that would have drawn me to Sanders – such as Wall Street reform and minimum wage – he combined them in a vision that was more cohesive than Bernie."
At this point the first O’Malley backer turned up: a local attorney called Megan Roos.
“I’m not that well educated a voter,” she said when asked why she was voting for O’Malley. “But I do like him. I’m not a socialist and I’m not a Republican so he’s kinda my candidate by default. I have met him.”
Kummer looked at his small flock of supporters and took a positive view: “If I was going for the winner I’d have gone elsewhere. My wife is bringing satsumas soon.”
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.