Monday, March 10, 2008

Guest column: Who Cares About Bill Richardson?

by Dorothy Cole

Bill Richardson will decide soon whether to endorse Clinton or Obama.

Maybe.

Does anybody care any more? Back when Richardson first dropped out of the race, Hillary Clinton was ahead, John Edwards was still viable and Barack Obama was gaining fast. How fast he was gaining was not yet obvious. There were a couple of weeks there when everyone really wanted to know which candidate Richardson would back.

Some people saw him as a valuable spokesman for the Latino voting bloc. Latinos -- Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran, Argentine, Dominican and Spanish-Americans among others too numerous to list -- don't actually vote as a bloc. But that's another story. Some people saw him as a significant bellwether for influential former Clintonites. Lots of people cared what he might be thinking.

Bill Richardson wasted that time. He watched the Super Bowl with Bill Clinton. He grew a beard and renewed his devotion to his pet causes here in New Mexico, where he is still governor. It looked then and continues to look like he is trying to stay friendly with all the candidates, in order to preserve his shot at a cabinet appointment from the eventual nominee.

In my case, since I had contributed a couple of bucks to his campaign, I was still on the email list. One missive carried the tagline "Richardson poised to make endorsement." I opened the letter. It was a request for more money to help retire his campaign debt.

I was suddenly receiving emails from Lt. Governor Diane Denish, who was endorsing and aggressively supporting Hillary Clinton. Gee, I'm registered as a Republican, so how could they possibly have gotten my name? Maybe from the Richardson campaign?

It makes a lot of sense that Denish would support Clinton for her own reasons; they are both women, they share many political views and Clinton is popular among New Mexico Democrats. To me, though, it looked like part of Denish's support was as a stand-in for Bill Richardson. After all, she'd been doing his work as acting governor while he was off campaigning for president. They have long made an effective team working together.

The only evidence I have is my sudden appearance on the mailing list. That's not persuasive, because my support of Richardson got my name on many Democratic lists. I guess I really need to be more careful to whom I give my email address.

As governor of New Mexico, Richardson is one of the much-discussed superdelegates. Those of them who have not yet declared for one candidate or the other seem to be similarly paralyzed by joint fears of public opinion and the Clinton machine. I may disagree with Denish's decision, but for goodness sakes, at least she's made one.

I am delighted at the possibility of having two great nominees -- McCain or Obama -- to choose from in the general election. Richardson was my original choice, but I don't care who he endorses any more. Does anybody?

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