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Richardson's Egg Timer

The Caucus:

I just got a phone call -- unprompted -- from Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a Democratic candidate for president, blasting Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for saying she would withdraw nearly all American troops from Iraq within a year of beginning redeployment.

"Senator Clinton's comments are a stunning flip-flop -- she's been saying she would keep troops in Iraq for five years, until 2013, and now she comes up with an inconsistent, incredible turnaround," Mr. Richardson said.
Mrs. Clinton has maintained that she would leave a residual force behind in Iraq to pursue narrow missions, a position that her spokesman said she still holds. As her aides have done before, the spokesman declined to say how many troops Mrs. Clinton would leave.

Mr. Richardson's poke begs the question: Is he, in fact, uninterested in being Mrs. Clinton's running mate should she win the nomination? Some Democrats have suspected that he was angling for the job, given the fact that he has heretofore stuck up for her in some of the recent presidential debates.

Bill Richardson is in a tough spot. With Iowa approaching rapidly, he needs to find a way to make the Hail Mary pass and create contrast between the top-tier and himself. Knowing he can't possibly compete with Hillary or Obama, it seems Richardson may be hoping to influence his support base for when they ultimately become "free agents" during the caucuses. Clinton's campaign has been tracking second-choice caucus goers like those who support Richardson, and this may be the governor's last chance to exert some influence in the overall race.

Some bloggers have taken exception to such cynicism, and instead believe we should take Richardson at his word. While I'm sure he is annoyed by Clinton's Iraq rhetoric, I still believe it's mostly electoral in nature. Richardson needs to draw contrasts on Iraq with Clinton, Obama and even Edwards. In order to finish respectably in Iowa--at least enough to keep going in New Hampshire--he has wed himself to being "more serious" about withdrawal than the top tier. He can't do this, however, if Clinton & Co. flip their rhetoric around on the issue.

I find it unlikely that Richardson called up The Caucus because he wanted the world to know Hillary came around on Iraq too late. He's ticked off, because she's hurting his ability to chip away and stay relevant in the race. If he really wanted to have influence on Iraq policy, wouldn't he have a better shot doing it on the Democratic ticket, or in State?

This isn't Richardson giving up on the VP nomination. There has to be some more strategy behind this, as Kyle Moore gets at in his post on the story. Maybe some top-tier, second-tier collusion in Iowa?

Bob Kerrey can't be the only surrogate in America.

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