11-13 Lukewarm on governor
By JAY MILLER
SANTA FE -- How do you explain this? Slightly over half of New Mexico voters think Gov. Bill Richardson would make a good president.
The governor says he's honored that a majority of New Mexicans think he is good presidential material. That's the right answer from a politician.
But Richardson has to be wondering how the same people who just gave him 69 percent of the vote for governor can turn around and give him only 51 percent support for president.
The Associated Press commissioned election-day polls in states with presidential wannabes to gauge what the home folks think about the potential contenders.
Sen. Hillary Clinton scored almost 60 percent support among New York voters. Sen. Barak Obama polled over 60 percent from Illinois voters.
Do New Mexicans think their popular governor just isn't up to the national job? Do they think it's just not worth trying for a governor from a state so obscure that many Americans don't even know it exists?
Richardson probably has the best resume of any candidate for the job. He has a background in both foreign relations and administration, usually considered the two top qualifications needed for the presidency.
The many U.S. senators who always line up for the job often have experience on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but no administrative experience other than managing a small congressional staff.
Governors, who most often succeed in winning the presidency, almost never have any background in foreign affairs. Our current president doesn't. Bill Clinton didn't. Ronald Regan didn't. Jimmy Carter didn't. You get the picture.
Richardson's Masters Degree was from the prestigious Fletcher School of Diplomacy. His first job was with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was an informal backdoor trouble shooter for President Clinton throughout the world before he became U.N. ambassador.
Following that, Richardson put in a two-year stint as Energy secretary. He had problems, but he was trying to get his arms around the most messed up department in federal government. At least that should give him a clearer picture than any other candidate has of what he would be facing as president.
And now he has served four years as a governor. Richardson is criticized for consolidating far too much power under his control. He was called a dictator by his gubernatorial challenger.
But it is difficult to charge Richardson with not being a strong governor. That leadership won him a large number of votes from Republicans who think he has been good for New Mexico.
But those same Republicans may not necessarily want him to be their president. My hunch is that those are the 18 percent who voted for him to continue as governor but who don't want him to be president.
That guess is strengthened by the news that Mitt Romney, the popular Republican governor of heavily-Democratic Massachusetts, has only a third of that state's voters behind his possible bid for the presidency.
It doesn't strengthen my argument, but in case you are interested, Massachusetts voters scored their senator, John Kerry, quite a bit lower than Romney.
What other variables might we be missing? The poll's sample size was 1,633 voters, much larger than most samples. Included in the sample were 700 absentee voters, which is consistent with the percentage of total voters.
If Richardson were to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008, that 51 percent polling result might be a fairly accurate of the New Mexican support he will receive.
One would think that a little state like New Mexico would be proud to see one of its own become president. Texas felt that way about Gov. Bush when he ran for reelection eight years ago and when he ran for president six years ago. But Tennessee did not support Al Gore.
JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail) firstname.lastname@example.org