Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

8-17 Richardson Stumbles But May Have Picked Up Speed


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- Maybe Gov. Bill Richardson shouldn't have ducked out of debating John Dendahl during last year's gubernatorial race. It would have been good practice for the big time.

      Dendahl would have loved to debate every day of the campaign. Besides being very intelligent and articulate, debating was about the only arrow in Dendahl's quiver. He got into the race late. He couldn't raise money. And he didn't get any help from the national Republican Party.

      Of course, those were all good reasons for Richardson to skip the debates. Why should he give his opponent free publicity, especially when the debates would be videotaped for possible use against him when he ran for president?

      Now, it is apparent that the governor's debate skills could have used some sharpening. Richardson stepped onto the big stage in the same shape as a rookie pitcher who skipped spring training.

      There are ways to recover, but will Richardson avail himself of them? The answer is likely no. Several weeks ago, this column begged him to slow down, get some rest and pay attention to his debate coaching.

      Did he listen. Of course not. That's just not Bill. He wants to be genuine. I gotta be me, he says. But some Democrat big wigs are beginning to have doubts about whether they want a president, vice president or secretary of state who can get tripped up and occasionally say the opposite of what he means.

      Richardson's slip at the forum on gay issues may not lose him many votes from that community, because he can point to his record. But it might lose him some money from gay leaders who have become uncomfortable about him not being quite ready for prime time.

      Our governor prefers to be either raising money or meeting voters one-on-one. That's his strength. But performing poorly with an individual voter is far different from doing it in front of cameras that will preserve one's mistakes forever.

   So, once again, Bill. Get some sleep and get some good debate coaching. You likely already are receiving good coaching. But you aren't listening. You can't just play in the games. You have to go to practice too. And when the coach tells you how to say it better, please listen.

      Otherwise, Bill, your best bet is to go back to Congress. An energetic guy like you can shake hands in a congressional district to make a difference. And speaking of energy, Bill. You are now 59. That's not old, but it's definitely at the slowing down stage. You can't continue to go 16 hours a day without some consequences.

      Surprisingly, no negative consequences were noticeable in the latest national poll taken while people were digesting the gaffes from Richardson's debate on gay issues. His national numbers look almost as good as his numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire. That's a first.

      He's now at 7 percent in the American Research Group survey. Up from 3 percent in July. Sen. Joe Biden trails Richardson at 4 percent, with the remaining candidates below 1 percent.

      Could it be true that any publicity is good publicity? Maybe Richardson's gaffes at least have gotten him noticed. That wasn't the plan, however. Richardson was to get close enough that he could vault to the front when the big three make mistakes.

      Oh well. Richardson continues to forge ahead with two new ads in Iowa, both focused on jobs and economic development. One of them is the fourth in his humorous "job interview" ads.

   Richardson is hanging out in the hallway as an interest group looks for someone with a proven record for economic development. He waves at them, but it doesn't register with the group.

   The ads don't portray Richardson in a forceful, dynamic manner, but they do get across the message that the best candidate is out there in the bushes still going unnoticed.

FRI, 8-17-07


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

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



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