Monday, January 07, 2008

Iowa caucuses horse trading: Richardson is single-handedly responsiblefor the Obama bounce

I had to stop blogging up in NH cuz I was on a campaign computer, but now that I'm home, I'm free to write my own thoughts. So let's go...

Obviously, the Iowa caucuses were a crushing blow to Gov. Richardson's bid for the White House. But the biggest news is that Obama's "momentum" is now unstoppable. Beating Hillary and Edwards by nearly 9% of the delegates available was incredible. It may have even been the end of the Hillary campaign, too. However, how did Obama move from essentially even before the Iowa caucuses to being such a big winner?

The key here is Governor Richardson. The campaign knew he probably wasn't going to make the 15% viability threshold in some precincts. Yet, according to Iowa entrance polls, he still had a solid 7% of the vote. That's a substantial block for a 3-way tie.

Well, it was all a strategy to hinder Edwards and Hillary. The Iowa Independent broke the story with a Richardson to Obama Second-Choice Support Confirmed. The idea was that Hillary had to lose Iowa or she wouldn't lose again. A Hillary loss benefited both Richardson and Obama. However, an Edwards loss was also important. For Richardson, it could pull him closer and give him the necessary bump into New Hampshire. For Obama, it would put a dent in the other "change" guy in the race.

What was suppose to happen was that when Richardson wasn't viable, but Obama's people didn't have enough to get another delegate, Obama's folks would send over a group of people to help Richardson earn a delegate (at the loss of Hillary or Edwards). In cases where it was obvious Richardson wouldn't ever get enough for a delegate, his folks were suppose to walk en masse to Obama's group to create a sense of momentum within the room.

Over at Raising Kaine, they have a first hand look at how it went down in his district.

The Iowa Independent reported on the "bargain" the next morning with Obama-Richardson Deal Goes Both Ways in Certain Precincts and Counties, but that isn't how it went down according to sources I have inside the campaign. (Since the Iowa Independent's sources are obviously Obama supporters, it probably isn't a surprise that Obama looks good in the morning after story). Instead it was a complete snowjob by the Obama campaign.

Instead of saying "we have extra people to send you" they said to us "we are xx number of people away from getting another delegate" and so they held. It was a coordinated strategy. And they leaked the news about the deal to the press on caucus day to give themselves momentum. The way they leaked it was "Richardson will send delegates to Obama" instead of phrasing it as a two-way deal the way it was agreed upon

As a result, Obama's victory of 2% or 3% became a landslide with the help of Richardson's 7% of voters.

I'm not complaining here. This is a winner-take-all game we are playing. Campaigns should never rely upon the goodwill of other campaigns to win. And I don't think I'd go so far as this guy, who writes How Obama and Richardson Cheated in the Iowa Caucuses. The caucuses are undemocratic and they are crazy. The system is broken, Obama and Richardson just played it.

However, Obama's tactics are a lot like "business as usual" and less like a "change" from the old. Again, I don't care. I think the "change" stuff is complete BS and I've never bought it. Politics is a tough-nosed world. It hasn't changed in thousands of years. Obama isn't going to fundamentally change anything. He's good, but he's not that good. Republicans will still fundamentally disagree with Democrats. Conservatives will disagree with Liberals. Obama's "change" mantra is fine, but I don't think he got the other side to agree with him. All this to say, that if you think Obama is going to bring change to politics, the first vote in Iowa may cause you to reconsider (although, I'm not saying don't vote for him...)

updated: I just wanted to say that no one from the Keene office gave me this information. My information came from various blog posts and campaign staffers I know inside the national campaign.