Des Moines--Barack Obama has already begun shoring up support among the lower-tier candidates who lack the money or poll numbers to be serious contenders in the early primary states, such as Iowa, and Offthebus hears that "agreements" with these candidates may be announced soon.
Dennis Kucinich started what may add up to the critical mass Obama needs for a win or strong second-place showing in the Iowa caucuses, when Kucinich encouraged his supporters - few though there are in this frozen state - to join the Obama forces on caucus night, if Kucinich doesn't have enough voters to be viable.
The Kucinich endorsement flooded the blogoshpere and the main-street-media and handed Obama a mini-bounce at a critical time in this campaign for the most privileged voters in America - Iowa's caucus attendees.
For days, the rumors have been flying between the campaigns about which of the top three candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination will benefit from the second tier non-viable candidates - Joe Biden and Bill Richardson - to be specific.
The Biden national and state campaign honchos met at 4 p.m. Monday in a Des Moines attorney's office to discuss their strategy and decide if they would encourage their non-viable voters to choose either Obama, Edwards, or Hillary Clinton's caucus contingents.
At a crowded and noisy Star Bar on Ingersoll Avenue, where the Biden campaign staffers were sipping champagne - or harder stuff - and waiting for their candidate, his wife, and the Biden Family to arrive for a New Year's Eve informal gathering, Offthebus chatted with one of the Biden's national consultants who wanted to remain anonymous:
"A decision will be made tomorrow about who we'll encourage our supporters to stand behind if we aren't viable in a precinct. Right now, I'd guess Obama gets our support because we're more inline with his vision of foreign policy than any of the other candidates, and besides, we like him and how he's run his campaign."
"Is Biden angling for a Secretary of State position in an Obama Administration?"
The Biden consultant told Offthebus, "Well, Joe would make a great Secretary of State, wouldn't he?"
Biden's son, Joseph R. Biden, III is the current Attorney General for Delaware. Should Joe Biden resign his seat and accept a major post in the next Democratic Administration in Washington, his son is positioned to replace him in the U.S. Senate.
After attending the press party at the Temple for the Performing Arts, I headed over to Dos Rios, to pick up any additional bar talk conversations and dangle the Biden scoop.
Off-the-bus spoke with a national Obama staffer who confirmed, "We've heard that Richardson may also be telling his supporters to caucus for Barack if they aren't viable. Nothing definitive but there's a trend going on," she added with a smile. Ah, that's an understatement.
All of this off-the-record conversation and backroom pol talk could be nothing or something.
But the fact that the rumors are flying and top aides are willing to discuss their thinking with Offthebus, albeit without disclosing their names, is still enough smoke to detect yet another spark that could ignite a fire under the Obama campaign's fortunes in the Iowa caucuses.
This trend, along with the latest polls showing Obama ahead of Clinton or within the margin of error to win this first all-important national test, bodes well for Obama and puts additional pressure on the Clintonites to outdistance Obama in the next 48 hours.
Time is running out for Clinton, but may be the best of all possible worlds for Obama should his campaign continue to build support with the lower tier candidates open to a conversation about where their voters should land on caucus night - if they aren't viable.
None of the campaigns I spoke with - on or off the record - are prone to hand their support over to John Edwards, who is busy today flying around the state for his final push to win - and therefore, survive until New Hampshire, where his poll numbers continue to fall far behind either Clinton or Obama.