This piece was originally posted on my blog, The View From The Left, on January 9, 2006.
It’s still early in the race for the Democratic nomination for President, but I’ve got my early money on New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. I know there are people in the liberal blogosphere who read and responded to my post “The Case for Hillary Clinton”, and will now read this and conclude that I’m just a shill for the DLC. By the way, the Hillary post was the case that could be made for her election, not an expression of my desire to see her elected.
If the response on my Hillary post was any indication, there are a lot of people who will say that they’ll sit out the general election rather than vote for Hillary, Bill Richardson, or anyone else they perceive to be a puppet of the DLC gets the nomination. I have news for all of you who would do that: ideological purity will not win you what you want. If you sit out the general election because you think the Democratic nominee isn’t liberal enough, you will be handing the election over to the same types of people who are running our government right now. Who would you rather be President: the person you agree with on most issues but not all, or the person you never agree with? Make your choice, but think carefully about it before you do. In other words, vote for whoever you like in the primaries, but when the general election comes you’d better line up behind the Democratic candidate unless you like the status quo.
So, why Bill Richardson? First of all, he’s a governor of a swing state in the West. According to CNN, in the 2004 Presidential election Bush had 376,930 votes to Kerry’s 370,942 votes. That’s a difference of 5988 votes. The FEC notes that in the 2000 election Al Gore had 286,783 votes to Bush’s 286, 417. These election results clearly show that New Mexico is closely divided and can go either way in a general election. However, in 2002, CNN reports that by a vote of 256,561 votes for Bill Richardson to 177,739 votes for his opponent, John Sanchez, or 56% to 39%, and Richardson was elected governor.
Much like Governor Brian Schweitzer in Montana (though I’d argue Schweitzer had the more difficult task), Bill Richardson has proven his ability to get elected in a swing state. And with swing states making all the difference in recent presidential elections, Richardson appears more electable, in this regard, than some of the other potential Democratic nominees. A December 20, 2005 Survey USA poll shows Governor Richardson enjoying 64% approval versus only 33% disapproval. Those numbers rank right up there with Schweitzer who is among the most popular governors in the nation.
I’m not going to dwell on it, but another advantage Richardson has is that he is a Governor and not a United States Senator. You can argue until you’re blue in the face, but reality is that in the last 30 years the only 2 Democrats who were elected President were governors. I’m not judging right or wrong, only presenting fact. Senators have extensive voting records that can be picked apart by the best opposition research teams that money can buy. Governors have executive experience that Senators don’t, and though they do create policy, they don’t vote yes or no on the legislation of the day. Granted, Richardson served as Congressman of New Mexico’s 3rd District for 15 years, but that was at least a decade ago, and many of his opponents are current U.S. Senators voting on the current issues that face our nation.
Another advantage Richardson has is that he is currently serving as the chairman of the Democratic Governors’ Association. This means that Bill Richardson has a national platform from which to get his name out there.
Bill Richardson has foreign policy experience, having served as Ambassador to the United Nations in 1997. He also served as the Secretary of Energy under President Clinton. Both posts gave him a significant amount of experience on the global stage. Early in his career Bill Richardson was a staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In addition, while a congressman, Richardson served as a special envoy on many sensitive international missions. He successfully won the release of hostages, American servicemen, and prisoners in North Korea, Iraq and Cuba. He also secured the release of an Albuquerque resident who was kept hostage in Sudan. Richardson clearly understands the energy crisis in the United States and how our dependence on foreign oil is a threat to our national security in ways no other candidate does.
With all of his experience in government, at both the state and federal levels, Governor Richardson has the necessary contacts and ability to raise the money necessary to run for President. That fundraising ability will be tested if Senator Clinton gets into the race.
Governor Richardson is also of Hispanic origin. His mother, Maria Louisa Lopez-Collada was Mexican. The Hispanic vote is being increasingly courted by both sides in elections, and having Richardson as the only Latino in the race for the Democratic nomination will bode well for him. This isn’t to say that Richardson can take the Hispanic vote for granted, just that as one of their own, he possesses an advantage in that community that other candidates do not.
I think that of all of the Democratic candidates, Richardson would make the best President. With his well-rounded resume, it’s no coincidence that Al Gore and John Kerry both considered him for Vice-President when they won the Democratic nomination. They considered him because a Vice-President must be ready to step up and be President, should something happen to the President. Al Gore and John Kerry believed Richardson to be among those ready to be President. So do I.