Quote of the Day

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Since Karen asked, I guess I should comment a bit more thoroughly on what Pete Domenici’s retirement means for the 2008 Senate race in New Mexico. Overheard in Arlington last night:

I think Democrats have a good chance to pick up some seats everywhere, not just in New Mexico.

I think that sums up the situation pretty well.

There’s no way Heather Wilson wins, regardless of who the Dems choose. She had a rough battle against Madrid last year (barely scraping out a win), and the war in Iraq is an even bigger stone around her neck. If she has to compete against Tom Udall (or, in her worst nightmares, Bill Richardson) there’s no way she can distance herself enough from Bush.

Steve Pearce has an even bigger problem: he’s never tried to distance himself from Bush or the Iraq War, and he’s toed the right-wing line in every House vote (see S-CHIP). That might play well for voters in his district, but he’ll be a hard sell in a statewide race.

To be perfectly honest, I’d love nothing more than to see Pearce and Wilson duke it out in a primary battle. But my ideal scenario would see the DCCC shifting the resources they’ve dedicated to defeating Wilson toward supplanting Pearce. It seems unimaginable that the Dems can’t find somebody (and by somebody, I mean there are already some great names being thrown around) to run for Wilson’s seat, and the same is true for Udall’s seat should he enter the race (Democracy for New Mexico says that’s not going to happen). Wilson is more vulnerable now than she has ever been, and Udall’s seat is a secure one for the Democrats.

Those of us living in the south have long felt that Pearce could be vulnerable. The unfortunate media situation (Heath is always talking about this) that feeds Las Cruces residents and others in the southeast news from west Texas rather than New Mexico has always been an obstacle, but it’s one that could be overcome.

Of course, Domenici’s departure from the Senate will have some tangible impacts on New Mexicans. We’ll lose his seniority on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where he and Jeff Bingaman have traded the chairmanship for years (depending on which party controlled the Senate, of course).

Domenici’s Retirement

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I’ve got to get going, but don’t think I haven’t been reading about Domenici’s impending retirement. I’ll have more thoughts later. As usual, I’ll refer you to Heath’s place for the latest throughout the day. Of course, there’s one point he makes:

Richardson insists he isn’t interested in the Senate race, and Democrats have the increased difficulty of deciding whether to gamble that he won’t change his mind if (or when) he loses the Democratic presidential primary.

Regardless of what happens in early 2008 (potential Senate candidates will have to file petitions in February), the state Democratic party would always replace a primary nominee (see the GOP in the 2006 New Mexico gubernatorial race) if Richardson does want in.

The Importance of Iowa

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A lot of people have asked me about my thoughts on Bill Richardson lately. Since I spent more than three years reporting on the governor in New Mexico ((mostly when he came to Silver City, but on occasion when I traveled to Santa Fe)), people in the Washington D.C. area want to get the “real” story on Big Bill.

Invariably, I tell them that Richardson is the ultimate politician: there’s no position he won’t take if he believes it will score him some points with some constituency.

I think Richardson’s reversal on the Iowa caucuses is the perfect example. One year ago, he was quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune supporting the idea of a Western primary, and why the Iowa caucuses were so overrated:

Ethanol was Exhibit A on Friday at the Western Presidential Primary Symposium in Salt Lake City, the evidence of why Utah and its Western neighbors need to band together with their own early presidential selection process. While ethanol is debated ad nauseam, Western issues like preparing for drought, managing public lands, guiding growth and complying with the Endangered Species Act are glossed over.

“When is it you ever knew a presidential candidate’s position on water?” asked New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Fast forward to this year’s election season, and you have Richardson defending Iowa’s right to a first-in-the-country caucus.

Along those lines, it was bittersweet to read this American Prospect article on Iowa voters:

But only one in ten Iowans can be bothered. Not only that, despite all the attention, Iowans know barely more about the candidates than citizens of other states, and don’t discuss politics any more than anyone else (unless something has changed since this research was conducted in 2000). Yet around 200,000 of them, possessed of no greater wisdom or insight than the rest of us, will determine who presides over this nation of 300 million for the next four years. The problem isn’t that Iowans aren’t like the rest of the country (95 percent white, for one). The problem is that despite the extraordinary privilege of having the next president grovel before them, they’re just as indifferent and apathetic as any other group of Americans.

And yet, we still keep pandering to them. Thanks to Kevin Drum for the link.

The Can’t Talk Express?

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I don’t even know what to say about Gov. Bill Richardson anymore:

As I listened, I wondered why he has not been taken more seriously as a candidate–a smart, accomplished governor of Latino heritage. Then I found out.

At the end of his speech–after noting all the ways he would defend the Constitution and redress global warming–he waved farewell to the crowd and shouted, “Thank you, AFSCME!”

AFSCME? Wrong union, governor. He left and the audience repeatedly shouted, “S-E-I-U!” A polite reminder.

Wow. Via Daily Kos and Election Central. Kos, in particular, has something to add:

These aren’t Howard Dean-style “gaffes”, in which the pundits pound someone for telling the truth (like “capturing Saddam won’t make us safer”). These are the sorts of mistakes that are made from poor preparation and lack of concentration. Or something.

All I know is that high-level politics requires a bit more care.

It’s not just high-level politics — if you’re running for the city council and you’re speaking to a group or organization and you don’t get their name right, you’re in for a world of hurt. And rightly so!

There’s just four months (or so) until the first votes are cast in the Democratic primary, and, at this stage of the game, Richardson simply can’t keep making these kinds of mistakes.

Richardson Op-Ed in the Washington Post

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Gov. Bill Richardson has an op-ed in the WaPo this morning, and, in it, he reinforces his recent attacks on other Democratic candidates who won’t call for a complete withdrawal form Iraq:

Our troops have done everything they were asked to do with courage and professionalism, but they cannot win someone else’s civil war. So long as American troops are in Iraq, reconciliation among Iraqi factions is postponed. Leaving forces there enables the Iraqis to delay taking the necessary steps to end the violence. And it prevents us from using diplomacy to bring in other nations to help stabilize and rebuild the country.

The presence of American forces in Iraq weakens us in the war against al-Qaeda. It endows the anti-American propaganda of those who portray us as occupiers plundering Iraq’s oil and repressing Muslims. The day we leave, this myth collapses, and the Iraqis will drive foreign jihadists out of their country. Our departure would also enable us to focus on defeating the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11, those headquartered along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border — not in Iraq.

Richardson has been banging this particular drum all week, but the WaPo piece will give him some high-profile visibility on the subject. In addition, it’s well-established that Richardson has some foreign policy chops, and, hopefully, this will lend some weight to the “Get out of Iraq Now” argument. But, I imagine the Very Serious People will find fault anyway.

When will it end?

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Well, once again, Mario Burgos and I agree on something:

It hasn’t yet been made public, but I believe that Governor Bill Richardson may be working on setting a new record for the Guinness Book of World Records. Richardson has already been widely recognized for his record breaking handshaking. Now, he diligently working on setting the record for the most retractions made by a candidate during a Presidential campaign

He’s talking, of course, about Richardson’s comment on the Iowa caucuses, when he implied a higher power was behind the state’s place on the primary calender. However, rather than retract the comment, it looks like Bill is going on the offensive:

At a campaign stop Wednesday at Horne’s Country Buffet, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson struck back at prominent liberal blogs that yesterday called Richardson a “buffoon” and claimed the New Mexico governor is “not ready for prime time.”

“Bloggers can say whatever they want, but I care about the voters,” Richardson told CNN.

Richardson can think about voters all he wants, but primary voters have long been the most active and most dedicated to the party, and they’re the ones who pay attention this early in the game (even if this isn’t as early as it used to be, thanks to everybody moving the calender around). Bloggers, believe it or not, are a subset of that group. If some of the “influential” bloggers are calling out Richardson’s foot-in-mouth disease, it has to be on other people’s (read: voters) minds as well.

Hat tip to Election Central for the link.