Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Iowa Flashback: There Really Was a Richardson/Obama Deal

Back in January 2008 on the eve of the Iowa Caucus, there was widely reported about a deal between the Barack Obama and Bill Richardson campaigns. According to such reports Richardson supporters would go to Obama in precincts in which Richardson didn't reach Iowa's 15 percent threshold for viability. In exchange, Obama supporters would go to Richardson at caucuses in which Obama had more backers than needed to win any additional delegates.
I was in Iowa, so of course I checked it out. Richardson's campaign spokesman Pahl Shipley vehemently denied the reports.

"We have not made any deals with any other campaigns," he told me. "We expect to be viable in most, if not all, precincts, and we are looking for a strong showing. You cannot tell Iowans who to support — they are very independent."

Obama's camp denied it too. But according to Ben Smith in The Politico this morning, Obama strategist David Plouffe in his new book has a different story.

"[State Director Paul] Tewes was also working with the Richardson camp to come up with a tacit agreement that in places where neither of us was viable we would make it clear to our supporters that each candiate preferred the other on the second run-through." (Disclosure. I cleaned up a whole mess of apparent typos in that quote. And thanks to my friend Mona who pointed out a stupid typo of my own in the first draft of this post.)

I'm shocked to learn that a campaign flack would not tell me the truth.

Of course, the participants in the caucus Don't always go along with such deals. In the Des Moines precinct that I observed, Richardson didn't make the 15 percent cut. Most of his delegates went to Obama, but some drifted to the Hillary Clinton and John Edwards fold. In fact, Richardson's precinct captain, who initially told me she'd vote for Obama if Richardson didn't make the cut, ended up voting for Edwards.