PREPOSTEROUS, INDEED.

Lest anyone reading my earlier item think I believe Jeff Dinelli's "preposterous conspiracy theory" that Joe Trippi is some kind of Barack Obama plant inside the John Edwards campaign working to take Hillary Clinton out, I'd like to make clear that I believe nothing of the sort. What I do know, however, is that Trippi is by nature and experience drawn, in presidential politics at least, to outsiders and underdogs and reformers, and so, unsurprisingly, has much more of an organic affinity with the reformist Obama campaign than the establishmentarian Hillary Clinton one.

Following up on my post, Noam Scheiber shakes out his notebook and reveals that Trippi got back into the game of presidential politics this cycle because of Obama, not Edwards, and that he has a great deal of affection and respect for Obama. Says Trippi:

What happened was, I really like David Axelrod a lot. And so when Obama got in, I had this feeling almost instantaneous like, "Shoot, you know, maybe I should do this again." It’s amazing. I mean, Obama gets part of the credit. That was the first time I started feeling like, "Wait a minute, maybe we can do something different here."...

Frankly if I wasn’t working for Edwards, I would probably have given $500 to Obama and $500 to Edwards.

Also, there's nothing conspiratorial about campaigns deciding to go easy on each other while they gang up on the front-runner, or emphasize each other's messages. That's just politics -- the art of alliances. Right now it's in the interests of both the Edwards and Obama campaigns to train their fire on Clinton, as both campaigns might find it easier to beat the other in a one-on-one contest than it would be for either to beat Clinton in a three-way match. Should Edwards and Obama come in first and second in Iowa and find themselves battling each other instead of Clinton, however, you may be sure the gloves will come off.

All of which leads me to a question I haven't spent much time thinking through: How do people think an Edwards-Obama ticket would do in a general election? (I'd expect Obama to pick someone other than Edwards as a V.P., should he win the nomination -- and Edwards to bow out of a second go at the vice presidency -- making the question of an Obama-Edwards ticket moot.) And also a question I've considered a great deal: What happens to the person who comes in third in Iowa? Can any of the Democrats survive a third-place finish in the state?

--Garance Franke-Ruta

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