Confusion reigns in Iowa (Updated)

Confusion reigns in Iowa today as to whether the Obama and Biden campaigns are trying to strike a voter-exchange deal. The Washington Post, not known for engaging in unsubstantiated gossip, reported that the two camps were talking earlier today: Obama would get Biden supporters in districts where Biden is unviable, and the Delaware Senator would get some extra Obama voters in places where Obama has "spare voters" (the concept of which, by the way, looks strikingly undemocratic). The Washington Post sourced this from both people in both the Biden and Obama campaigns.

But TPM has gotten both a Biden spokesperson and an Obama spokesperson to say on the record that there is no such talk going on. From Biden's comes a strong statement: "No discussions have taken place. We have not made any deals or arrangements. We are strong enough on our own." Hard to know what's going on at this point, but the stakes are very high: it is a deal like this that could ensure that Obama wins tonight -- or at least guarantee that he does not come in third.

Don't forget that there is no reason for the campaigns to have to publicize such a deal. Its enforcement will rest on precinct captains knowing what's going on and pushing their supporters towards a candidate. The order can come top-down at the last minute without it being really relayed to the media. Though such behind-the-scenes moves could also muddy anyone's showing if it looks to be too obscure and hidden from the public. So I for one doubt that Obama and Biden would be close to striking a deal if their spokesperson are denying it that intensely. It is for now impossible to know what is going on -- and the situation is looking increasingly confused.

Meanwhile, poor Fred Thompson is stuck having to argue he is not going to drop out in the coming days no matter what happens in Iowa. "This is absolutely made up out of whole cloth," said Thompson. This has got to be the nightmare of any campaign: Be stuck answering questions on Iowa television about whether you are 24 hours of withdrawing the morning of the first votes being cast. It's obviously impossible to know what Thompson is thinking. He has suggested he wants to get in second in Iowa -- and it is equally absurd for him to withdraw if he does not get that than it is for him to not withdraw if he can't even get double-digits in the state he has spent so much time in during the past few weeks.

And in New Hampshire, Suffolk released the third installment of its daily tracking poll:

  • Among Republicans, Romney has climbed a bit since yesterday: Down 32% to 23% then, he is now trailing 29% to 25% against McCain. Huckabee is at 12% and Giuliani at 9%.
  • Choice quote from the release: "Giuliani‚Äôs numbers have declined in seven consecutive polls, from a high of 37 percent in March 2007 to 9 percent as of Jan. 3, 2008."

  • Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton is maintaining a double-digit lead up 39% to 23% for Obama and 17% for Edwards, who is still very much in the running -- at least for second place.
Keep these numbers in mind, as they will be very useful to see what the impact of Iowa will be in the coming days. The numbers that will be released tomorrow will still be pre-Iowa (taken on the 2nd and 3rd) but the evolution on Saturday and Sunday will tell us a lot about what kind of bounce the tonight's winners are getting.

Update: And the confusion continues. Now it is the New York Times which is reporting that Obama has a deal with Richardson to do pretty much what the Washington Post said he was going to do with Biden. The WaPo now is saying that the Biden-Obama deal has fallen through.

The NYT however is saying that the Obama-Richardson arrangement has already been made. In other words: Obama offered to help Biden be fourth and the deal didn't work out, so he is now going to help Richardson be fourth? Both Richardson and Obama spokesperson are once again denying there is a deal, though the explanation of Richardson's spokesperson is that "Richardson will be viable in nearly every precinct so the point is moot." If that's their reason as to why there is no deal...

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  • Are you going to make any predictions?

    Here are mine:

    Democrats: Obama 27%, Edwards 20%, Biden 18%, Clinton 17%, Richardson 10%

    Republicans: Romney 32%, Huckabee 24%, McCain 17%, Paul 11%, Thompson 8%

    What an exciting race!

    By Blogger Anthony Palmer, At 03 January, 2008 14:03  

  • Anthony, I like Biden, but I'm not sure I'd give him that much credit, deal or not.

    I'll predict Obama 30, Edwards 25, Clinton 25, Richardson and Biden each around 8.

    Some of the networks are also apparently doing entrance polls, it will be interesting to see how different they are to the actual delegate counts. I'm curious what the effect will be if Hillary comes in first in the entrance polls, but drops to 3rd in the tally at the end of the evening.

    I can't fault your prediction on the Republican side.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 03 January, 2008 15:41  

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