Gov. Bill Richardson's phone has been ringing off the hook. Sen. Hillary Clinton called Sunday night. That was followed by a call from former president Bill Clinton, then a call from Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who's supporting Clinton. Sen. Barack Obama called twice Monday morning.
And, at around 4 p.m. Monday, as we entered Richardson's office on the fourth floor of the state Capitol here, Richardson was finishing up a 15-minute phone conversation.
"That was Teddy," Richardson told The Trail. Sen. Ted Kennedy, who alongside his niece Caroline and son Patrick endorsed Obama at a packed rally at American University just hours before, is scheduled to stump for the Illinois senator in northern New Mexico Wednesday night. Kennedy is urging Richardson to support Obama. "Teddy's argument is that Obama can bring people together," Richardson said. "That's his rationale."
As the highest-ranking Hispanic in the Democratic Party, Richardson's endorsement is being aggressively sought by the Clinton and Obama campaigns. California, Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico are among the 22 states voting next week, and each have sizable Hispanic electorates. Richardson, who cruised to re-election as New Mexico governor in 2006, is a popular figure in the Hispanic community.
Richardson's torn. He served in the Clinton White House, first as ambassador to the United Nations, then as Clinton's Secretary of Energy. "I have a history with the Clintons," Richardson said. "And I've always liked her. She always seems very genuine." But Richardson considers Kennedy, who's long been respected by Hispanics, as "a mentor." In 1982, when Richardson ran for Congress for the second time -- he lost two years before -- Kennedy flew to Santa Fe and campaigned for him. "That might have been the reason I was elected," Richardson said. And he said he likes Obama, telling a story about how Obama saved him during one of last year's Democratic debates:
"I had just been asked a question -- I don't remember which one -- and Obama was sitting right next to me. Then the moderator went across the room, I think to Chris Dodd, so I thought I was home free for a while. I wasn't going to listen to the next question. I was about to say something to Obama when the moderator turned to me and said, 'So, Gov. Richardson, what do you think of that?' But I wasn't paying any attention! I was about to say, 'Could you repeat the question? I wasn't listening.' But I wasn't about to say I wasn't listening. I looked at Obama. I was just horrified. And Obama whispered, 'Katrina. Katrina.' The question was on Katrina! So I said, 'On Katrina, my policy . . .' Obama could have just thrown me under the bus. So I said, 'Obama, that was good of you to do that.'"
Richardson, like Clinton and Obama, waged a historic campaign. He was the first Hispanic -- he's half Mexican -- to run for president, yet his candidacy was overshadowed by Clinton and Obama. He finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire and dropped out of the Democratic race on Jan. 10, citing a lack of funds. Some political observers here are surprised that he's waited this long to endorse a candidate, though they wonder if he's negotiating a vice presidential spot in the Democratic ticket, or perhaps a place in the cabinet.
If Richardson is to endorse either Clinton or Obama -- "I might, I might not, how's that for an answer?" -- he said he'll do so by the end of the week.
"If I do endorse, it's going to be a gut feeling. It's not going to be about statistics, about past ties," Richardson said. "I've been on the campaign trail with both of them. I feel that I know them. I feel I know the issues. I feel I know what makes them both tick."
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Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Wyndam Makowsky was a true Bill Believer. The floppy-haired freshman at Stanford University had been video blogging his support since December at Richardsoncampus.blogspot.com. In an interview on Jan. 16, Makowsky told SFR he’d be voting for Bill on Super Duper Tuesday, no matter how far the candidate was behind in the polls.
Ten minutes later, The Associated Press broke the news that Bill was bowing out. What could Bill have done to attract more Wyndams? Not much, according to SFR’s pundits.
“We had this candidate in this race we nicknamed ‘Bidoddson.’ You had these three veterans with incredible resumes, but running in the primary with the first serious woman candidate and the first African American candidate, Bidoddson got left in the dust. For Richardson, himself, a more consistent performance would’ve helped. He had some good debates and some truly bad ones and voters were looking for something more than the up and down.”—Jennifer Duffy, senior editor, Cook“I think he ran a pretty good campaign, actually. I mean, strategically, he seemed to do a lot of the right things. His message was pretty good, his ads were pretty good, but he did get boxed out by the two main personalities and all the money pouring into the race. I think if the financial playing field had been more even, it could have been closer.”
Political Report—Josh Kurtz, politics editor, Roll Call“If we just look at the numbers game, Richardson, by any definition, was raising really good money for this contest. But it wasn’t good enough compared to the front runners, Obama and Clinton and, in the end, the organization you can have because of that money. And they had so much more money. We’re talking hundreds of millions as opposed to $12 million. Twelve million is great—normally awesome—but in this particular contest it’s not enough to see you through.”—Lonna Atkeson, political science“There were a few notable mistakes on Gov. Richardson’s part, like the Meet the Press interview, which was basically his introduction to the mainstream, and it really didn’t go that well. But other than that, I really don’t think there was much he could have done better. He was competing with three main candidates who had enormous name recognition. To a certain extent the presidential election is a bit of popularity contest and he just wasn’t a known figure nationwide.”
professor, University of New Mexico—Wyndam Makowsky, video blogger,
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Friday, January 11, 2008
Bill's Big Adventure came to an end in the disconcerting echo chamber that is the Roundhouse Rotunda, a place that turns even the most declarative sentences into acoustic soup.
It must be the Rotunda's fault, because for a moment there I could've sworn I heard Gov. Bill Richardson tell his audience, "I am back," after a year in the electoral wilds of Iowa and New Hampshire.
And yet, that couldn't possibly be right, because almost as soon as the words escaped his mouth and Richardson's rabid faithful supporters shot out of their chairs in wild applause Thursday afternoon, the governor repaired to a small room in the Roundhouse for some incisive interviews with . . . CNN and Fox News.
The local media? The local customers they serve? Sorry, no time today.
Those few illustrative minutes bring us to this place in the strange relationship between the governor and his state: Richardson says being New Mexico's chief executive is the finest job he's ever had in three decades of politics. It's a line that plays in the Rotunda. It kills in the Rotunda.
But think about it: If "Governor, New Mexico" was the best item on his Things To Do In This Lifetime checklist, Richardson never would have run for president in the first place. He'd have been here all along, doing what governors do — arm-wrestling with a balky state Senate, kissin' babies, instructing local reporters to kiss . . . well, you know.
As much as anything, Richardson's announcement that he's departing the presidential race felt more like a statement that he's getting in — if not into the White House, then someplace very close.
My guess: Richardson will mark time for the next few months, be ever-present at the Democratic Party's national convention in Denver in August, and stay very close to his telephone for a call that might keep him in Washington for the next several years.
None of us would be surprised, would we?
Regardless of what you might think of Richardson and his flaws, let's agree that he never sets his sights on a level horizon. His eyes are up, always up, forever hunting a major policy issue, always tracking the big game of challenge. And let's face facts: Washington, D.C., is a much bigger safari than Santa Fe.
Propelled by a gale-force personality, outsized ambition and humongous work ethic, the governor is now one of the best-known Democrats in the country. He's a player, a major player, in his party; a must-get for CNN and the New York Times; a guy whose name portends horsepower.
You can argue Richardson's long list of work experience — former congressman, U.N. ambassador and secretary of energy — might offer up those treats naturally, and all I can do is ask: Can you name a former ambassador to anywhere or a former secretary of anything?
Somehow, Bill Richardson gave résumé cachet.
Unfortunately for him, it wasn't enough to overcome Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, or even John Edwards. In the New Hampshire primary and Iowa circuses, he wasn't even close.
"He was everybody's second candidate," U.S. Rep. Tom Udall raved, apparently forgetting that nobody really wants to be Miss Congeniality in politics. "And that's a big accomplishment."
Not big enough, evidently. But there are some charms to what Richardson has done in the past year. His name now registers nationally — a plus, because Richardson works in a business where a big Q rating gives opportunities to those who possess it.
At a relatively youthful 60, who's to say Richardson can't try for president again someday? And in the meantime, there's no reason — providing the Democrats win in November — that he won't have a monster-sized business card come January 2009.
New Mexico is beautiful, wonderful, cool — a place where a governor can wear blue jeans to a news conference and get huge cheers for running hard but finishing fourth. I believe Richardson when he says he loves this state. But it ain't D.C., and it never will be.
Bill Richardson's back?
Yes, for now. But only for now.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
It is with great pride, understanding and acceptance that I am ending my campaign for President of the United States. It was my hope that all of you would first hear this news from me and not a news organization. But unfortunately, as with too many things in our world today, it's the ending of something that garners the most intense interest and speculation.
I knew from the beginning that this would be an uphill climb. When I entered the campaign, it was clear that we, as Democrats, had the most talented field of candidates in my lifetime running to change the direction of our country. And in the end, one of them will.
Despite overwhelming financial and political odds, I am proud of the campaign we waged and the influence we had on the issues that matter most to the future of this country.
A year ago, we were the only major campaign calling for the removal of all of our troops within a year's time from Iraq. We were the only campaign calling for a complete reform of education in this country, including the scrapping of No Child Left Behind. And we were the campaign with the most aggressive clean energy plan and the most ambitious standards for reducing global warming.
Now, all of the remaining candidates are coming to our point of view. I am confident that the next President of the United States will implement much of what we've been urging for the last twelve months, and our nation and world will be the better for it.
There are so many of you who gave so much to this campaign. For that, I will be forever grateful. Running for president has been, at times, humbling and at other times, exhilarating. I have grown and learned a great deal from the experience, and I am a better person for it.
Also, because of your close friendship and support throughout the ups and downs of what is a very grueling and demanding process, I have never felt alone.
Running for president brings out the best in everyone who graces the stage, and I have learned much from the other candidates running. They have all brought great talents and abilities to the campaign.
Senator Biden's passion and intellect are remarkable.
Senator Dodd is the epitome of selfless dedication to public service and the Democratic Party.
Senator Edwards is a singular voice for the most downtrodden and forgotten among us.
Senator Obama is a bright light of hope and optimism at a time of great national unease, yet he is also
grounded in thoughtful wisdom beyond his years.
Senator Clinton's poise in the face of adversity is matched only by her lifetime of achievement and deep understanding of the challenges we face.
Representative Kucinich is a man of great decency and dedication who will faithfully soldier on no matter how great the odds.
And all of us in the Democratic Party owe Senator Mike Gravel our appreciation for his leadership during the national turmoil of Vietnam.
I am honored to have shared the stage with each of these Democrats. And I am enormously grateful to all of my supporters who chose to stand with me despite so many other candidates of accomplishment and potential.
Now that my time in this national campaign has come to an end, I would urge those who supported my candidacy to take a long and thoughtful look at the remaining Democrats. They are all strong contenders who each, in their own way, would bring desperately needed change to our country. All I ask is that you make your own independent choice with the same care and dedication to this country that you honored me with during this campaign. At this time, I will not endorse any candidate.
Now I am returning to a job that I love, serving a state that I cherish and doing the work of the people I was elected to serve. As I have always said, I am the luckiest man I know. I am married to my high school sweetheart. I live in a place called the Land of Enchantment. I have the best job in the world. And I just got to run for president of the United States.
It doesn't get any better than that.
With my deepest appreciation for all that you have done,
Governor Bill Richardson
The Governor's Mansion
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Well, darn. Nice while it lasted. Only one solution: watch more West Wing.
Back in 44 minutes.