Obama and Clinton in Withdrawal Talks

| Fri May 23, 2008 10:08 AM EDT

CNN is reporting that the Clinton and Obama camps are holding "formal meetings" about Hillary Clinton's withdrawal from the Democratic primary. The report is sourced almost entirely to Clinton insiders — the Obama folks are denying unequivocally that talks are occurring — and they appear to see three scenarios:

(1) Obama chooses someone other than Clinton as vice president. The Clinton people consider this "totally unacceptable" and akin to "open civil war within the party." If it were to happen, Clinton's campaigning for Obama in the general would be "quite aloof."
(2) Obama publicly offers the VP spot to Clinton, which she would then reject.
(3) The candidates talk personally and hammer out a solution. Clinton gets her debt covered or gets Obama's support in a later run for Senate Majority Leader.

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If you look at this from a strategic point of view, the Clinton insiders are playing this masterfully. Two things are accomplished by leaking their terms to the press while the Obama camp sits silent. First, the idea of Clinton as VP becomes much more palatable. People who weeks ago were thinking, "No way, she's been too divisive. She doesn't understand his core message" are probably now thinking, "Fine, just give it to her. Let's move on already." Second, this probably explains why Clinton is ratcheting up the rhetoric on Michigan and Florida and planning to bus supporters to DC for the Rules & Bylaws meeting. All of it is like a gun to Obama's head in these negotiations. "Look how much damage we can do if we don't get our way, Mr. Obama."

Update: Clinton camp is denying the report.