Friday, February 9, 2007

Richardson's Support in South Carolina

Check out the following from The State newspaper in South Carolina discussing Bill Richardson's tilt for the Democratic nomination. It's close enough to an endorsement in the key southern state.

Clinton, Obama and Dodd are heading to South Carolina in the next week, and John Edwards has already been there twice.

By MIKE FITTS - Associate Editor
EARLY RANKINGS of the Democratic presidential field seem always to treat New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson the same way: They nod to his obvious credentials and remarkable resume — even declare him the best-prepared candidate to be president — then assign him a seat firmly among the also-rans.

Why the discrepancy? It tends to boil down to money and hype, and he is not expected to turn up enough of either.

That’s not a logical situation; of course, politics often is far from logical. But this early in the South Carolina primary process, there’s time to take a look at this wide-open field of presidential contenders and really consider the options.

For Gov. Richardson, the consideration has to start with his resume:

A governor. Gov. Richardson is quick to point out that he is the only sitting governor in the race; he is an executive who has had to balance budgets and set priorities. There’s a good case to be made that a governorship is the most analogous post to being president. It’s also where voters have tended to turn in recent elections for the next president, rather than Congress.

A diplomat. He served the Clinton administration as U.N. ambassador, and has been a special diplomatic envoy to such states as North Korea and Sudan — he was in Sudan earlier this year, visiting the battleground Darfur region and lobbying Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to bring peace to the region.

Energy secretary. His term in this Cabinet post provides a background that no other contender can match; in the 2008 race, energy policy will be debated more in American politics than it has since the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s.

Congressman. He spent 14 years on Capitol Hill, so he knows the ropes there, too.
On issue after issue, he made his experience the point during a recent interview: “I’ve done this.”

Crawford Cook, a longtime friend of Gov. Richardson who is working on his behalf in South Carolina, sums up Richardson’s appeal: “By any measure, Bill Richardson is the best-qualified, by experience and background, in the race.”

Then why does he slide into the second tier of candidates over hype and money?

Hype first: He is a known commodity, based on all this experience, and reporters, being human, find known commodities less interesting to write about. His Hispanic background, on his mother’s side, would make him a groundbreaking presidential nominee, but that is trumped in the media by Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

And money: It’s tougher to raise big bucks in New Mexico than it is if you are from New York or Chicago. Mr. Richardson has the extra money handicap of having just finished a re-election campaign for governor, Mr. Cook says.

That’s all true, but not as important as political convention makes it.

Look at two issues that are sure to be the biggest that the next president will face: America’s role in the world and our energy problems.

Gov. Richardson says the regional factions in Iraq need to be brought to the table to settle their differences, and that the threat of chaos from a U.S. pullout should be used to push the parties toward buying into a plan to run the country. He also advocates the kind of regional conference that the Iraq Study Group endorsed, and says the White House is wrong to rule it out. He points to successful efforts before the 1991 Gulf War to get Syrian endorsement. And that kind of outreach needs to include Syria and Iran this time. “Instead of talking, we’re threatening them. I think that’s short-sighted,” he says.

He also has a record to tout on energy. He says that New Mexico is the only state controlling its output of greenhouse gases well enough to meet the standards of the Kyoto climate change treaty. He proposes a national cap-and-trade program to build economic incentives into reducing emissions — that’s a popular policy among candidates, but, again, Gov. Richardson can say he’s done more than talk: “I’ve done this.”

New Mexico requires that 10 percent of energy come from renewable resources, and he says it will move toward 20 percent.

Will all his experience mean anything in a crowded political field? It should. Look at the likely situation that will greet the next president in 2009: Wouldn’t your first criterion in hiring for that job be to hire someone with the experience to be ready to cope from Day One?

Democrats trying to wade through this crowded field of primary candidates should not overlook Gov. Richardson. The pundits don’t have him in the “first tier” of candidates.

But to those voting in the Democratic primary who think foreign policy is the biggest issue in this race, the “first tier” should be Gov. Richardson and Sen. Joe Biden.

And for Democrats who think energy and the environment are the biggest issue for 2008, Gov. Richardson’s background puts him in a tier by himself.