Sometimes, a trailing competitor can prove to be more than helpful for two closely placed contestants. The current race within the Democratic Party for the presidential nomination is a classic case in hand.
O'Malley's 3% can change the game
Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the 74-year-old junior senator from Vermont, are virtually tied at the moment and observers feel it could be Martin O'Malley, the distant third in the race who polled just three per cent before Monday's caucus and looks to be almost out of the nomination race, could ultimately break the tie between his rivals.
The Des Moines Register poll, which saw the former Maryland governor getting a paltry three per cent, also saw Clinton (45 per cent) leading Sanders (42 per cent) by the same three-percent difference.
Could O'Malley be the kingmaker? The Democrat, however, told the CNN that he didn't consider himself so and focused more on the original battle he was fighting, which is the presidential nomination.
But O'Malley's three-percent support would be crucial for any Democratic candidate who doesn't receive 15 per cent of support in the first round of polling in each of the 1,682 caucuses gets eliminated and his/her supporters would then have to choose between the candidates in fray.
Hillary already eyeing O'Malley's supporters
O'Malley might still be fighting for the revival of his fortune but it seems Hillary Clinton and her teams have already set their eyes on this key group. The teams looking after Hillary's campaign have been engaging a lot with O'Malley supporters to take the battle beyond Sanders's reach.
Hillary applies Obama's 2008 strategy
This strategy resembles that of Obama, to who Hillary had lost in the 2008 campaign. Then, Obama with his inspirational message and organising skills, convinced supporters of the third-ranked candidates like Joe Biden to pick him as their second choice.
The other strategy to beat Sanders
But Hillary's team has added an extra effort to beat Sanders this time and that is to shift some supporters to the distant O'Malley even if things look advantageous to deny Sanders any extra support. That Hillary is attaching so much importance to the election this time is evident from the training her team has imparted to the precinct captains.
Sanders's camp not equally keen on O'Malley voters
The practice of helping a weaker candidate to weaken a stronger candidate is not morally supported by many but realpolitik has little to do with morality, isn't it?
Sanders, on his part, has emphasised more on "political revolution" vis-à-vis Hillary's massive organisational tactic. It is not that the former has less number of volunteers at his disposal but his supporters are eyeing less in winning over other candidates' supporters.
Sanders is banking more on new voters unlike Hillary, his seasoned opponent who is focusing on the proven electorate.