Inside the Capitol

Thursday, December 20, 2007

1-02 Can Bill Get Out of 4th in Iowa Caucuses?


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- Timing is everything. And for Bill Richardson, it wasn't good. Four years ago, he'd have had a better shot in the Democratic field in which no candidate stood out.

   This year in the GOP, we could see a different winner of the first several primaries.  But the top-tier three candidates in the 2008 Democratic primary have been impossible for anyone to crack.

   Mike Huckabee's sudden rise is what all candidates hope to do. Richardson raised much more money than Huckabee and has a much better organization but he has hardly moved from his position of 10 months ago. And no other Democrat has moved much, yet.

   So we await results of the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, whose timing also could have been better. In prior years, everyone got December off. Christmas, Hanukah, New Year and college bowl games were December's preoccupations.

   But this year, candidates have had to tread unfamiliar ground. Everyone wanted maximum exposure without being intrusive. Most took off Dec. 23-25 and got back to work on the 26th.

   Also unfamiliar is the GOP's free-for-all contest. Republicans are accustomed to having more structure, more order. Everyone gets behind the leader. But this year, the race is unsettled. As one GOP leader said, we don't do chaos nearly as well as the Democrats.

   Bill Richardson is getting some bad press for a comment he made early in 2007 about timing of the Iowa primary. Iowans were a little paranoid about states trying to cut in front of them.

   So they sought assurances from all presidential candidates that they would support Iowa being the first state on the calendar.

   Iowa is important in Richardson's strategy. He must do well in the initial small states, where his money will stretch and his person-to-person politics will work. But there isn't much rationale, other than tradition, for Iowa being first.

   So Richardson, with a wink and a smile, said God meant for Iowa to be first. Iowans could live with that. They saw it as Richardson making the supreme commitment to their state.

   But now it's being interpreted by a political consulting agency as the most outlandish statement in the campaign. And they didn't say it with a wink and a grin. Apparently, they believe Richardson was serious.

   Guess that's what happens when a candidate kids around. And Richardson is a kidder. Anyone who knows him, knows that his beliefs are not determined by religion. They're determined by polling more than anything, I suspect.

   But Rush Limbaugh was not kidding when he opined that Hillary Clinton is too old to be president, even though she is younger than  some of the other candidates. But Rush doesn't want to see a woman get old before his eyes.

   America deserves deeper thinking than that from political analysts. I would nominate that for the most outlandish statement of the campaign -- except for the obscene emails about Hillary I receive from my brother-in-law in East Texas.

   GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson gave Bill Richardson an unintended boost recently. Asked to name his favorite president in the other party, he decided to be funny and named Martin Sheen, who played President Josiah Bartlet in the West Wing TV series.

   It came off nicely for Thompson, who played a district attorney on Law & Order. But unknown to Thompson was that Martin Sheen is now campaigning for Bill Richardson in Iowa

   In that topsy-turvy GOP Iowa race, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had a big lead in the polls for awhile as a result of massive campaign spending. Now Mike Huckabee appears to have forged ahead.

   John McCain, whose campaign had faded to almost nothing, has received some surprising endorsements from major newspapers and public figures in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

   And no one can count out the always-ignored Texas Rep. Ron Paul with the libertarian beliefs that mystify Republicans and Democrats. He raised $24 million this past quarter.

WED, 1-02-08


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

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



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