Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

5-18 Bill the Comic

WED, 5-18-05

SANTA FE � Gov. Bill Richardson is catching some flak about news that he paid two comic writers $1,200 for the material he used in his starring role at the National Press Club�s annual Gridiron Banquet in Washington D.C. recently.
But it may have been some of the best money he has spent from his political action fund. The gridiron event is studded with more political and media stars than any other imaginable. The invitation to be a keynote speaker was a big coup for Big Bill and he wasn�t about to blow it.
The comedy writers were surely ones who knew the gridiron formula. Poke good-natured fun at others, but save your best jabs for self-deprecating humor. And laugh the loudest when others make fun of you.
Everyone knows the routine, from the president on down. Well, everyone except for sometimes New Mexican Don Imus. Back during the Clinton years, Imus got so vicious with the president that any future invitations are sure to get lost in the mail.
Imus makes a fortune from his early-morning radio and TV show from New York. People enjoy his edgy humor and he has an adoring audience of highly-paid minions who laugh at his jokes and accept his berating. But it isn�t the stuff of the gridiron�s old-fashioned roast.
Richardson also received the supreme honor. The cast members made him the subject of one of their skits. It was a good evening for Richardson and an excellent indication that he registers on national radar.
But that�s all 2008 presidential talk. First, our governor has to win reelection as strongly as he ran in 2002. One of the prerequisites for doing that is to avoid any presidential talk in New Mexico until after the 2006 general election.
So Richardson will continue to play coy, deflecting any presidential questions with impassioned statements about how much he likes being governor of New Mexico.
Despite occasional comments about the governor being in trouble for one reason or another, he again is succeeding in raking in big bucks. In 2002, he raised $8 million, a New Mexico record for campaign spending. Guesses are that 2006 may see the Richardson campaign coffer at $10 million.
Another indication of the governor�s strength is that no major candidates have emerged to challenge him. And it�s getting to be about that time. The last two successful Republican gubernatorial candidates gave themselves plenty of time for voters to get to know them.
Gary Johnson announced in the summer of 1993. Garrey Carruthers announced in the spring of 1985. Both were unknowns, so they needed the extra time. And neither was the pick of GOP insiders. It may mean that anyone still has a chance, especially since Gary Johnson beat an incumbent.
Obviously, national Republican leaders would like to cause as much grief as they can for any incumbent Democrat governor with presidential ambitions. The good news for Richardson is that he is only one of many who fall in that category.
But since Richardson has gotten himself elected chairman of the national Democratic Governors Association, he has to be considered a frontrunner among governors seeking the presidency. Governors have a good history of getting elected president.
Four of our last five presidents have been governors. But U.S. senators seem to be the most ambitious for the presidency. Hillary Clinton and John Edwards likely rank ahead of any Democratic governors in current polling.
Nevertheless, if the state GOP can scare up a promising candidate to go against Richardson, he or she is likely to receive some solid financial support from national sources.
And those expensive jokes for which Richardson paid? Staff members say he�s getting his money�s worth, also using them in New Mexico. Since the joke writers weren�t likely to have written many about New Mexico politics, the jokes are likely ones on Richardson.
That�s no problem for the governor. Part of his charm is his ability to poke fun at himself.



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