Monday, March 19, 2007

Bill Richardson For President!

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who has also served as Secretary of Energy and U.N. Ambassador, is our pick for the Democratic nomination for President.

Before we say why, a few words about the overall field. The Curmudgeon is a moderate progressive Democrat. Polls show that most Democrats are satisfied with the choices they have for the 2008 nomination, whereas many Republicans are unhappy with their choices. We concur--we would be satisfied with and vigourously support any of the major Democratic Party choices for the nomination--Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Gore if he runs. We also wanted former Virginia Governor Mark Warner to run and would have worked our tail off for him, but that didn't happen.

After dispassionately studying the field for the past few months, however, we've concluded that Bill Richardson is the Democrats' best candidate. Here's why:

First, Richardson has broader and more relevant experience than the three Democratic front-runners (Sens. Clinton and Obama and former Sen. Edwards). History has shown that former governors often make good presidents, in part because both are executive positions. Richardson is currently serving in his second term as Governor of New Mexico, but also has headed a major federal agency, the Dept. of Energy. His governmental executive experience far exceeds that of the other candidates.

One of the knocks on governors, however--especially from small states like New Mexico--is their lack of foreign policy experience. That demerit doesn't apply to Richardson, since he served as U.N. Ambassador for two years. (He also has a master's degree from the highly regarded Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy; worked at the State Department and as a staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee early in his career; and was active on international issues in his 15 years in Congress.) In short, Bill Richardson has the type of sophisticated foreign affairs knowledge and understanding that was notably lacking in a certain recent Governor of Texas who went on to become President and single-handedly destroy America's standing in the world community.

Second, Richardson's resume makes him a natural as a leader on some of the most pressing issues of the coming decade: energy and environment, immigration and restoration of America's international standing. Richardson's background in energy, in particular, puts him in position to articulate a cohesive national energy strategy and to deal with a fractured Congress that largely wants to cater to local energy interests without regard to the national interest.

Third, the New Mexico governor brings a fresh political dimension to the Democratic Party that can only improve the odds of winning what undoubtedly will be a close race in 2008. As governor of a western state, Richardson will have greater appeal to key swing independent voters in the Mountain West, where Democrats have been making gains at the local level. These voters are particularly suspicious of Hillary Clinton, and probably of Obama and Edwards (and Gore) as well. If Democrats can take New Mexico, Colorado and perhaps Arizona and Nevada in 2008, their chances of winning are vastly improved.

Richardson also holds tremendous appeal to Hispanic voters. His mother is Mexican and his father, originally from New England, spent much of his life in Latin America. Richardson was raised in Mexico City until age 13. If Democrats can increase Latino turnout in the 2008 election and swing more of that vote their way they have an excellent chance of carrying Florida and improving their margin in other states. At the same time, Richardson's waspy name and mainstream credentials keep his Hispanic background from scaring off socially conservative independent voters.

(Richardson may have some trouble with Chinese-American voters due to his involvement, while Secretary of Energy, with the Wen Ho Lee scandal. We think he can successfully mend most of those fences, however.)

Despite his broad and sometimes high profile government experience, Richardson is still relatively unknown to most Americans. This is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that few voters have any negative image of him, in contrast to Sen. Clinton. The curse, of course, is that even among Democrats, many don't know much about him. With what looks like an increasingly compressed primary schedule, that makes for a very uphill battle for the nomination. On the other hand, if he were to be nominated, he would have plenty of time to let the country at large get to know him before the general election.

Other intangibles favor Richardson as well. He is a good speaker--no one will call him a "rock star" like Obama, and he is not quite as high on the charisma scale, but he generally leaves an audience quite satisfied. At the most recent DNC meeting, at which most of the candidates spoke, many delegates thought Richardson's thoughtful speech was the best.

He's comes across as a political moderate and his personal life appears clean. He's been married for 33 years to his "high school sweetheart"--a nice contrast to Guiliani, McCain and Gingrich. He was also a good athlete, having been scouted as a potential professional baseball player (he decided to go to college, then injured his arm, ending that career). Richardson mingles well with working-class voters and won't make the Kerry-esque mistakes of being photographed wind-surfing, or declining a cheesesteak in Philly.

In the end, Richardson will have greater appeal to independent voters than Clinton, Obama and Edwards (Edwards polls well among independents now; we're not sure that will last since he's articulating the most liberal positions of the major candidates). We believe he would win the general election if nominated, and would become an excellent President, one who would work with and listen to Congressional leaders as well as world leaders, to advance our country's interests.


Jackson Landers said...

I think that Richardson looks good on paper but is strongly charisma-challenged. Something about his on camera has always rubbed me the wrong way and I've heard a lot of other people say the same thing. He comes across as overtly ambitions with regard to his career (it is sad that this is considered a bad thing). Maybe he would make a good President but I don't know how good a candidate he will be. I'm willing to keep my eye on him and see if he improves in interviews and speeches.

Anonymous said...

I hear he may have Clinton's zipper problems. I don't care, but most of America might...
We need a democrat who actually stands for something other than their own election. That elliminates Hillary and probably Obama.

merjoem32 said...

So much of the election is about presentation and Richardson is lacking in this aspect. Obama, and Clinton, are both well known and charismatic speaker's which has helped them get to the top of the recent election 2008 polls. If Richardson can improve in this aspect, then it will certainly increase his chance at winning.

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