History has already been made. Illinois Senator Barack Obama won the Iowa Caucuses. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson placed fourth. But did they really earn their finishing positions? The answer may be surprising.
In the now past ABC New Hampshire debate before the January 8th first-in-the-nation primary, the rules were that only the candidates who finish in the top four slots in Iowa could participate, meaning that second-tier candidates who placed fourth could live on to continue their campaign another day.
In the last hours before the Iowa caucuses Obama, who wanted to pad his victory and hedge his bets, approached Joe Biden with this proposal:
In precincts where Biden had a local official loyal to him, and if Biden wasn't viable, then Senator Biden would tell his organizers to move his supporters over to Obama en mass. Conversely, in precincts where Obama had more than enough supporters, he would lend people to Biden to ensure Biden a fourth place finish so that he could continue on.
Joe Biden actually considered the proposal. An anonymous source close to Biden told the Washington Post that the strategy could be "viability for victory."
When the media found out, Obama's camp admitted that the conversation took place. Biden, who when asked about the proposal at a campaign event said that the deal could "probably" help both campaigns; however he later rejected the deal on "moral grounds," a source in Biden's Iowa organization told the Rev. Rob Times on condition of anonymity.
History recorded that Joe Biden placed fifth in Iowa, and subsequently dropped out of the race.
On January 4, the day after the caucus, the New York Times reported strong rumors that Obama made the same deal to Bill Richardson that he previously offered to Biden, only this time the deal was accepted.
The Times article describes not only the rumors, but gives an eye-witness account and confession of an Obama official telling Richardson supporters that a pact had indeed been made between the two candidates.
"That's what the leadership has said," admitted Deb Copeland, an Obama volunteer as reported by the New York Times. "What we're concerned about is we heard of a few people going to Hillary. And we want to keep you together," she told the Richardson supporters at the 64th precinct.
Volunteers for the Biden campaign told the Rev. Rob Times that Obama organizers used the same speech about a "pact" to lure supporters in at least two precincts where Biden was only a few supporters shy of viability.
Representatives from both the Obama and Richardson campaigns deny that such a deal was ever struck, yet first hand testimonies clearly paint a far different picture.
In the end, the effect of backdoor wheeling and dealing between campaigns is that Richardson's fourth place finish could be artificial, and Obama's victory margin is larger than it would have been in a democratic system.
Our democracy is based, in part, on the concept of "one man, one vote," and a vote by a secret ballot, free from the judging eyes of neighbors and the media, free from bribery, and free from the influence of political activists.
Had the Iowa contest been based on a ballot, and had caucus voters cast a single vote for the candidate of their choice as is the most fair method of picking a president, then Obama may have come in second and Richardson in fifth.