Inside the Capitol

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Best Democratic Convention Ever?

SANTA FE – “This will be the best Democratic convention ever,” Gov. Bill Richardson told the National Press Club recently.
So what else did you expect the convention chairman to say? The Press Club members likely were snickering under their breath, knowing that major network channels were going to televise only three hours in prime time during the entire week.
National party conventions have become completely predictable in the past 30 years. The only convention with any real action in the past 50 years was in 1968 and most of that happened outside the Chicago convention hall. Conventions no longer come with the drama of the 1952 Republican one, when Gen. Dwight Eisenhower edged out Sen. Robert Taft.
The Democrats’ convention should be a little more interesting than what the Republicans will put on the end of next month in New York because they will have two candidates to introduce to the nation. We already have a fairly good idea of the Bush/Cheney ticket.
For New Mexicans, there is a little added interest with our governor being the permanent convention chairman and a featured speaker. His expertise in foreign policy helped get Richardson that coveted spot. That puts him one up on Hillary Clinton who was snubbed.
Richardson does a good job looking out for himself. And he’ll also look out for the New Mexico delegation, so often relegated to distant hotels and third balcony seating. Even as a member of Congress, Richardson looked after the delegation and arranged special events.
Nothing too exciting should be expected from either party’s lineup of convention speakers. The only twist will be that Ron Reagan, son of the former president, is scheduled to speak at the Democrats’ convention on stem cell research, while Georgia’s Democratic senator and former governor, Zell Miller will speak at the Republican convention about his support for the war effort. Miller delivered the keynote address for Bill Clinton at the 1992 Democratic National Convention.
But Richardson won’t be juggling a vice-presidential run with his chairman’s duties. He is out of that race. Michael Coleman, of the Albuquerque Journal’s Washington Bureau, did a piece on Richardson last week reporting that Jim Johnson, the head of John Kerry’s vice-presidential search, insists that Richardson was a top-tier contender for the No. 2 spot and was in the running until he pulled himself out near the end.
Johnson revealed that Richardson had not been jockeying for the job, had been interviewed several times, and that nothing in his background failed to pass muster in the highly intrusive vetting process. Coleman reported that Johnson said no other contender brought the breadth of public service to the table that Richardson did and that his ethnic background was another big plus.
What it came down to, according to the head of the V.P. search, was that John Edwards was so good. The Democratic base was clamoring for a Kerry-Edwards ticket, Johnson told Coleman.
So it appears that those of us, who poked a little fun at our governor for scrambling after Kerry for a vice presidential selection while denying his interest back home, were guessing wrong. Oh well, hope the governor can take a joke.
Part of Richardson’s attractiveness for selection as a running mate was that he comes from a swing state. Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano also was considered for the same reason. But the marginal nature of our two states may be fading.
Political blogger Joe Monahan predicts that by October, New Mexico may no longer be a swing state. He points to Kerry’s lead in the polls and the fact that only 6 percent of the New Mexico electorate says it is undecided.
Arizona finds itself in just the opposite situation. President Bush has a 10 to 12 point lead in the polls over there. The only thing that may keep that state in play is that 19 percent of those polled still are undecided.


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