Matthew Yglesias on the Richardson candidacy

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The American Prospect just posted this article on Bill Richardson:

We’ll leave aside, momentarily, the fact that Richardson is clearly more qualified for the White House than anyone else in the race, since everyone knows that doesn’t matter. Just consider the bare fact that he’s the popular, second-term governor of a swing state — you know, the sort of person who back in the day used to win presidential elections. And it’s not as if Richardson isn’t getting attention because the field is crowded with popular second-term governors of swing states. No. We’re too excited about the first-term senator from Illinois whose only competitive election in the past was against Bobby Rush — and who lost. Or that vice presidential nominee from a losing ticket.

Yglesias argues that Richardson’s campaign isn’t getting enough media attention (“his campaign is a joke” Matt writes) because Bill isn’t enough of a celebrity. Hard as that might be to believe here in the Land of Enchantment, that’s what Yglesias is arguing:

The point about Richardson is that in many respects he’s exactly the sort of person — a popular governor — who was taken seriously as a presidential contender in the very recent past. The list is long and familiar — Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush. The difference is that Richardson is also super-experienced.

In retrospect, however, Bush was less the last of the governor presidents than a transition to the new era in which, to be president, you need to be a famous celebrity.

Richardson’s campaign (even if it is, as Matt says, “a joke”) should welcome the story. Matt handily lays out why Richardson is a good candidate:

Here’s something else you might expect to garner some buzz: If that same Democrat also found some spare time in January to broker a cease-fire between the government of Sudan and some major rebel factions in Darfur. That kind of person might be someone who understands that these sort of humanitarian tragedies can’t just be ended purely through righteous indignation.

But now we’re getting back to the small matter of qualifications. Traditionally, Americans have turned to governors to serve as president, thinking that experience in executive office and with complicated managerial tasks outweighs the experience with federal policy issues that members of Congress can count in their favor. Happily, Richardson spent over a decade in the House of Representatives before becoming governor. In between, he was America’s ambassador the United Nations, wracking up a level of national security experience that none of the other contenders can match. And did I mention he was also Secretary of Energy?

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