Deals, No Deals, and the Joy of Rumors
As Ken reported, this morning, and as yours truly reported, last night, the rumors are flying that second-tier candidates are cutting deals to allow their supporters to switch to Senator Obama, in second round caucus voting. Well, the big newspapers are also playing the rumor game. Taegan Goddard links to the Washington Post, which has an unnamed source claiming a Biden-Obama deal, and the New York Times has an unnamed source claiming a Richardson-Obama deal. The Post gives an update, with a named source, saying that no deal was reached. The Times gives an update with a named source saying the same thing.
It's possible that deals were discussed, and nothing could be worked out. It's possible that unnamed sources will say anything. It's possible that the Obama camp is floating rumors to generate enthusiasm. It's possible that amidst the hysteria before the official launch of the campaign season, everyone wants to have the inside scoop, and no one really does.
Meanwhile, as Walter Shapiro explains, for Salon:
Rumors are flying that Joe Biden and Bill Richardson have -- each -- cut separate deals with Barack Obama to throw their supporters his way if they don't hit the magic 15 percent threshold to remain viable in tonight's caucuses.
Those rumors, though, may not be true. The Richardson campaign and the Biden campaign each strongly denied reports of a deal this morning. "There is no deal," said Richardson spokesman Tom Reynolds. "We will be viable in nearly every precinct so this issue is moot." Biden aides were just as confident. "We have no deals or arrangements," spokesman Mark Paustenbach said. "We are strong enough on our own."
And he discusses the various strategies involved in all of this. But here's the bottom line:
The problem with all this speculation is that it's just that. Even if the campaigns involved had cut deals, there's no way to enforce them when their supporters show up at caucuses tonight. Without knowing why a voter supported Biden or Richardson in the first place, it's impossible to know whom they'd like more among the big three. And besides, Iowans famously throw ideology out the window late in the process every four years in favor of friendships that will remain long after the candidates have left town. So in the end, last weekend's poker game in Elk Run Heights might wind up mattering more than whatever Biden campaign manager Luis Navarro whispers to Obama's David Plouffe.
Yeah, that sounds like a pretty crazy way to run an election. But as you know, we pick a president with the system we have. It's not the system you might want or wish to have at a later time.
My feelings on that are no secret.