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Let's assume arguendo that the CNN report is true and that the Clinton camp has essentially offered to drop out of the campaign and given three options to the Obama campaign.  According to the reports, the options were

  1. Make Hillary the VP choice
  1. Publicly offer Hillary the VP choice, which she will turn down (as negotiated)
  1. Try to help her pay down some of her campaign debt.

Of course, there is a fourth option: say no.  That's where the BATNA comes in.

BATNA stands for Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement.  That is -- if negotiations fail, and the sides cannot come to an agreement, what can you do?  The BATNA isn't so much always a desirable option, but a bargaining point, as making an offer worse than someone's BATNA is pointless.

Let's take it as an assumption that Obama doesn't want Clinton as his VP nominee.  In this case, his BATNA to the offers on the table are pretty much what you'd expect: pick who he wants, perhaps a former Clinton supporter, and make his own best effort at party unity.  The downside is that it may or may not lack cooperation on that front from the Clintons.

What, though, is Hillary's BATNA?  Let's say she gets a polite but firm "no, thank you."  What then?  Even under a fully-seated MI/FL scenario, it's almst inconceivable that the superdelegates wouldn't come together in the minimal numbers needed to avoid a floor fight.  She just cannot win the nomination.

A third party run?  A backroom opposition?  I can't see any of these things as net positives for the Clintons.  While Obama may choose to take one of the options as a conciliatory measure, he certainly is not obliged to -- Clinton's lack of an alternative shows a weakness in bargaining position.

Originally posted to Rorgg on Fri May 23, 2008 at 08:30 AM PDT.

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