Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Richardson Edges Out of Second Tier


Syndicated Columnist


      SANTA FE -- Gov. Bill Richardson is finally gaining some traction with double-digit showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, the nation's first two presidential primary states.

      Those are the two places he is running the clever television ads you've been hearing about. Unfortunately for second-tier candidates, there no longer is breathing space before the next primaries allowing candidates with good showings to raise more money for contests in  populous states.

      So Richardson already is organizing in other early-primary states. One of those is California, the biggest of them all. And that is why he chose Los Angeles for his official announcement.

      Richardson's official announcement was even less a surprise  than his January announcement in New Mexico that he was forming an exploratory committee.

      There was nothing newsworthy about the announcement, but fortunately for Richardson, it happened to be a slow news day in California and the nation. Once again, Big Bill had Lady Luck on his side.

      New Mexico Republicans complained that Richardson didn't make this announcement in his home state too. Maybe they were planning to send protesters.

   But despite GOP efforts to undermine Richardson's candidacy, the latest popularity poll shows him at 74 percent, carrying all demographic groups. Obviously there is a factor of pride among New Mexicans in having a presidential candidate from their little state.

   The official announcement was held at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, where Richardson and the New Mexicans who helped decorate the state's Rose Parade float, stayed last year. Present were enough New Mexico officials to fill anyone's stage -- with the obligatory wide racial and ethnic diversity.

   The most encouraging sign for Richardson's campaign was that wife Barbara not only was present, she introduced him. She's not a bad speaker, very warm and from the heart. She tossed in some jokes about his weight, alluded to their long marriage and then confided what New Mexicans already know -- that this will not be an easy road for her to travel.

   Pictures taken afterward show her looking adoringly at her husband. It was perfect for national consumption that followed. Los Angeles is a major media market that is picked up nationwide. It was much more free publicity than Richardson could have gotten anywhere else. He also had a good turnout of local officials who have endorsed his candidacy.

   Another reason for Richardson to announce in Los Angeles was to emphasize his Latino roots. It's a message that isn't getting across. The governor tossed quite a bit of Spanish into his remarks.

   Although Richardson still isn't doing well in national surveys,  media people know him well and many give hints that they like him. Cokie Roberts and her husband Steve, who also is a national journalist and commentator, went a step farther in their syndicated column.

   Commenting on campaign expense reports filed by presidential candidates, they observed that Sen. John McCain and Gov. Bill Richardson report about the same amount of cash on hand but their campaigns are headed in very different directions.

   Their observation was "If candidates were investments, the smart money would be saying: sell McCain, buy Richardson."

   By surging to 10 percent showings in the first two primary states and raising more money than the other second tier candidates, some observers are beginning to put Richardson in a new second tier along with John Edwards whose support is dropping. The remainder of the candidates would be in a third tier.

   Some analysts think Richardson is surging, not because he is the best qualified candidate but because he is likable, someone you'd like to sit down and chat with.

   Also falling in that category, they say, are our current president, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

   Richardson's rap for disregarding speed limits may have been eased by New Jersey Gov. John Corzine's recent 90-mile-per-hour crash. Evidently it is something many governors do.

FRI, 5-25-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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