Inside the Capitol

Thursday, November 08, 2007

11-12 Oh To Be a Fly On the Wall


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- Wouldn't it be great to know what is going on inside the Democratic Party right now? Maybe nothing is happening and the party is as unorganized as ever.

      But my guess is that the air is heavy with intrigue. Something happened to cause 3rd Congressional District Rep. Tom Udall to take another look at whether he should run for the Senate seat being vacated by Pete Domenici.

      Udall says top Washington Democrats are encouraging him. Does that mean Gov. Bill Richardson has decided to bet his entire stack of chips on ending up somewhere at the federal level rather than taking  an almost guaranteed Senate seat?

      Does it mean Richardson and Udall have talked and Udall is taking over the headlines for awhile and to relieve the pressure on Richardson  to reveal whether he still is a serious presidential candidate?

      Are top Democrats scared that Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez can't beat a Republican in the Senate race? Hasn't Chavez won three four-year terms as mayor by sounding a lot like a Republican?

      Is Udall endangering the automatic re-elections to his House seat by his reconsideration of the Senate? The 3rd Congressional District was designed to be Hispanic. But when a Hispanic lost the seat when Richardson resigned to join the Bill Clinton cabinet, Democrats decided to go with their strongest candidate to win it back.

      Has Udall now lost that Hispanic goodwill? No less than eight Hispanics have jumped into the race to replace him. If Udall decides against a Senate run, will all eight drop out of the House race?

      New Mexico's two living Hispanic former governors, Jerry Apodaca and Toney Anaya, have both endorsed Martin Chavez and have made pointed remarks obviously aimed at Udall. A Senate primary against Chavez will not be a cakewalk for Udall.

      So what did Senate Democrats offer Udall to entice him to give up sure re-elections every two years and his newly-won seat on the House Appropriations Committee? Did they promise to bypass the Senate seniority system and assure him a committee assignment as good as the one he would be losing?

      And how come Bill Richardson is the only presidential candidate talking about getting out of Iraq immediately? Isn't that what voters said they wanted in the 2006 election? Are all those candidates who are senators trying to save face because they haven't had the courage to make it happen?

      Or is there a much deeper strategy to let the president keep his troops in Iraq, and even increase them, in order to make voters even more upset with Republicans in 2008?

      So when will we be learning any answers? Udall has given himself another week or so to make up his mind. Richardson is moving nearly all his chips from New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to Iowa for its January 3 caucuses. After his monumental effort, it would be a shame not to at least see what it has produced in one state.

      If Richardson decides against a Senate run, he may stay in the presidential race a little longer to see if he can pull off any surprises.

      Absent any good showings, money will dry up and he will be looking for any deals he might cut with frontrunners. Hillary Clinton appears his best shot. Those, who claim to be in the know, say he is on a short list of three or four possibilities for selection as a vice-presidential running mate.

      Richardson would be a good draw for the growing number of Hispanic voters and he likely could deliver the state's five electoral votes that went Republican last time.

      But a better bet might be the governor of a bigger state, such as Ohio, who might be able to deliver enough votes to make a difference.

      Would Richardson be willing to give up a shot at the big time for a much more likely opportunity to be a senator from New Mexico. I still think so. He'd be able to stay there as long as he wants.

MON, 11-12-07


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

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



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