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Martin O'Malley became the first major-party candidate since John Edwards to accept public financing

O'Malley's move limits his campaign to spending $48 million in the primary -- and $1.8 million in Iowa

Washington CNN  — 

Martin O’Malley is accepting public financing for his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, bolstering his cash-strapped campaign but shackling him with strict spending limits.

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.

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.