People have long speculated that Bill Richardsons' floundering presidential bid only served the purpose of making him a viable VP option for Hillary Clinton. Last night, however, he may have damaged those prospects -- while potentially improving them for another potential primary winner. Richardson instructed his caucusers to support Barack Obama if he fails the viability test in any precinct, rather than with Hillary (via Memeorandum):
Gov. Bill Richardson's campaign is expected to direct their supporters to caucus for Sen. Barack Obama in the second round of voting at Thursday's caucuses in precincts where he is not viable. Two sources familiar with the plan told Iowa Independent that the New Mexico Governor's organizers have been instructed to direct supporters to Obama in the places where they fail to reach the 15% threshold for viability.
Richardson, whose poll numbers in Iowa have hovered near 10% since June, may need a solid fourth-place finish in the caucuses to continue his campaign. And he is best served by directing support away from former Sen. John Edwards, who consistently polls between him and the two national front-runners, Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, in national and early state polls.
But Richardson's modest gains from diverting second-choice support away from Edwards may be eclipsed by Obama's potential success on caucus night, should everything go as planned. If Richardson's field organization manages to direct a significant number of supporters to Obama, it could be enough to win him the Iowa Caucuses.
Allahpundit at Hot Air notices the disconnect between the VP strategy as well. The Iowa Independent doesn't mention it at all, although they propose that a Hillary loss helps Richardson in New Hampshire. Perhaps, but he's not going to be the first-order beneficiary of a Hillary loss; that will be Obama.
This looks like an extension of the VP strategy, only with Obama as the headliner rather than Hillary. Richardson sees writing on the wall for Hillary's nomination, and he wants to partner with the candidate he sees as the winning nominee. And this partnership would make sense; it would give an Obama general-election bid a lot more heft in terms of experience, both in foreign policy and in executive management. It would portend a Cheney-like vice-presidency for Obama, at least in his first term, as Richardson's connections to the bureaucracies in State, Energy, and Congress would threaten to overwhelm the neophyte Obama.
Most of all, it shows that the vaunted invincibility of Hillary Clinton has dissipated entirely. If Richardson feels comfortable enough to abandon the Clintons -- or more likely, compelled to do so -- then the rest of the Democratic Party may not be far behind.