O'Malley squeaks into next Dem debate
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Martin O'Malley has squeaked into this Sunday night's NBC News/YouTube Democratic presidential debate after poor poll numbers put his status in doubt.

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NBC News announced Thursday that the former Maryland governor will join Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: Wells Fargo tells employees to delete TikTok from work phones | Google, Facebook join legal challenge to ICE foreign students rule | House Republican introduces bills to bolster federal cybersecurity Biden lets Trump be Trump 4 Texas GOP congressional primary runoffs to watch MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten smog standards amid pressure from green groups | Democrats split on Trump plan to use development funds for nuclear projects| Russian mining giant reports another fuel spill in Arctic Biden lets Trump be Trump Democrats split on Trump plan to use development funds for nuclear projects MORE (I-Vt.) on stage in South Carolina.

O'Malley needed to hit 5 percent in averages of qualifying national polls or those from Iowa or New Hampshire. From the moment the network announced the criteria last week, it became clear that his only avenue would be Iowa.

In tweets from their campaign staffs, Clinton and Sanders both called for O'Malley to be included in the debate hours after the criteria was announced.

NBC's press release did not specify which polls it considered as the five most recent in Iowa, as O'Malley appears to have just barely made it past that threshold. NBC told The Hill last week that it would round up from 4.5 percent if necessary.

In the four most recent qualifying Iowa polls — Quinnipiac University, NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist, Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics, and Fox News — O'Malley averaged exactly 4.5 percent. But there was a tie for the fifth most recent poll, as a Loras College poll and another Quinnipiac poll were both released on Dec. 15. Including the Loras poll's 4 percent would have put O'Malley at 4.4 percent, while including the Quinnipiac poll's 6 percent would put him above the threshold.

Missing the debate stage would have been a blow to the O'Malley campaign, which has struggled to gain traction as the progressive alternative to Clinton. National polls as well as early state surveys suggest a two-person race between Clinton and Sanders, with O'Malley polling far below the pair.

—This report was updated at 12:34 p.m.