Kingmakers: Joe Biden

In case you haven’t heard, the Democratic caucuses in Iowa aren’t exactly a microcosm of American democracy. Secret ballots are unheard of, candidates bribe voters with sandwiches , and second choices aren’t just allowed, they’re sometimes requested.

On Thursday night many supporters of Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, and Joe Biden won’t be allowed to vote for their candidate. Democratic caucus rules say that any candidate who doesn’t pull in 15 percent of the vote at the local caucus meeting isn’t “viable,” so their supporters must pick another candidate if they want their vote to count. Let’s hear it for the democratic process !

Given that, we thought we’d put together a helpful guide for second-tier supporters when they have to shift allegiances. (Richardson supporters can find advice here .) Here’s a rundown on which candidates most closely share Biden’s positions (just in case supporters lose their Mo-Joe ):

Pakistan : Somehow, John Edwards has been getting rave reviews for his handling of post-Bhutto Pakistan, but picking up the phone when Pervez Musharraf calls doesn’t make you an expert. Hillary Clinton seems like she could be a nice fit, with her competency and experience, but Barack Obama is the winner. Even though Biden was annoyed when Obama aped Biden’s stance on attacking al-Qaida in Pakistan, the plans still resemble each other.

Iraq : Biden’s three-part soft-partition plan is considered the gold-standard among Democrats, which means any of the Big Three are a step backward. This one’s a wash.

Health care: Biden’s plan doesn’t call for mandatory universal care, but it does make health care accessible to all children. It’s far from all of the top Democrats, but it’s closest to Obama’s since there isn’t a mandate for adults.

Resume: If Bill Richardson were polling higher, we’d give him the nod. But since he’s unlikely to top the 15 percent threshold in most precincts, Clinton gets the edge. Not because of her White House experience, but because she’s the only two-term senator among the top Dems.

There isn’t an easy second-choice candidate for Biden supporters. His appeal comes from his foreign affairs expertise and his no-nonsense attitude. In many ways, Biden supporters would probably find a home with John McCain more than any other candidate. That says more about the Democratic front-runners than it does about McCain.