In 2004, John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich struck a deal before the Iowa caucuses to support each other should one of them fail to reach the 15% viability threshold in a given precinct. (Supporters of a candidate not reaching the 15% threshold are forced to disband and pick another candidate). The impact on the final outcome was likely slight, Kucinich registered at a paltry 3% in polling, but a similar pact could re-emerge this election cycle.
Bill Richardson is the candidate in a tier of his own, not in the top echelon but a cut above the rest of the pack. In Iowa, the New Mexico governor consistently polls in the double digits. Because of his level of support is high yet doesn’t break the 15% viability threshold, it’s crucial who his supporters have as a second choice.
So far, Richardson has cozied up to Clinton, his sycophancy shining through at the Democratic debates. In Philadelphia on October 30, Richardson decried negative campaigning, saying, “I’m hearing this holier-than-thou attitude toward Senator Clinton. It’s bothering me because it’s pretty close to personal attacks that we don’t need.” That and similar remarks led to a Saturday Night Live sketch lampooning Richardson for his toadying, ramping up the vice president speculation should Clinton win the nomination.
Iowa is a three way horse race, with no candidate able to boast a clear lead going into the final month of campaigning. The conventional wisdom declares that if Hillary wins the state, it will be nearly impossible to prevent her from getting the nomination. So, take the following hypothetical: Richardson, hoping to put Clinton over the edge and thus maximizing his chances for the veep slot, offers up a quasi-endorsement of the New York senator. If his support doesn’t surpass the 15% barrier, Richardson tells his supporters to throw their weight behind Clinton. In a tight race, the additional backing may compose Clinton’s margin of victory.