John Nichols has an article in the October 8, 2007 issue of The Nation entitled, "The Richardson Surge." Here's the first part:
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was supposed to be the cautious candidate Democrats respected but never got excited about. With his extensive diplomatic experience and his hunger for a return to the national stage--if not as a realistic candidate for the presidency then as a top vice presidential prospect or the next Secretary of State--the man who served as Bill Clinton's Energy Secretary and United Nations ambassador was tagged at the time of his January announcement as a deliberate, capable but almost certainly inconsequential contender for the 2008 nomination. But Richardson has refused to play his assigned role, and with an unexpectedly resolute antiwar stance and a freewheeling campaign style that distinguishes him from the field's punch-pulling frontrunners, he is the first member of the race's "also-ran" pack to elbow his way from the margin of error to the verge of serious competition.To getter a better sense of what Nichols is talking about in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, let's look at some pictures. Pollster.com aggregates all of the various political polls and displays the overall results graphically. The site was developed by Mark Blumenthal, a longtime political pollster, and Charles Franklin, Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who specializes in the statistical analysis of polling and election results. Here are the graphs for Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada:
Richardson's edgy, opinionated and at times risky high-wire campaign has gained him double-digit poll numbers in the first primary state, New Hampshire, where he has begun to attract endorsements from key local Democrats and favorable reviews from the state's influential newspapers. One recent New Hampshire poll put him ahead of John Edwards. A summer survey of Democrats in the first caucus state by Iowa's Des Moines Register had Richardson in front of Barack Obama and just five points behind Hillary Clinton as the choice of the most likely caucusgoers. In Nevada, another early caucus state, Richardson's support has grown from 2 percent in March polling to 11 percent in August.
Why is Richardson clicking? Against a field of first-tier candidates (Clinton, Obama and John Edwards) who don't mind savaging the Bush Administration's management of the Iraq imbroglio but who regularly fall short of proposing clear exit strategies, Richardson offers not just a résumé but specifics--and a sense of urgency. His TV ads in the early caucus and primary states identify him as the candidate with "the only plan that pulls every single soldier out of Iraq." As the contender with the most international experience--save, perhaps, hapless Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Joe Biden--Richardson says it is not merely possible but necessary to end the US military presence in Iraq and to replace it with diplomacy and targeted aid initiatives. Rejecting all the dodges of the frontrunners, Richardson argues, "If we are going to get out, we need to do it now."Richardson's strategy, and his new ad featuring several well-known Netroots figures, also received coverage this week in The Washington Post, in a piece entitled, "Richardson Speaks to the Base." Chris Cillizza talks about Richardson distinguishing himself from the other candidates via his withdrawal plan, shows the new ad, and then discusses its possible affect:
The three voices in the ad -- Matt Stoller, Chris Bowers and Christine Siun O'Connell -- are all prominent members of the so-called "netroots", the loose coalition of bloggers and online activists that has rapidly emerged as a new (and vocal) constituency within the Democratic party over the last several years.Richardson's website features the full four-minute video from which the ad is culled. For those concerned about ending the war, I think it's an effective piece of campaign propaganda.
By putting these three individuals in an ad focused on his Iraq proposal, Richardson is hoping to generate buzz among activists, who pay close attention to the personalities of the netroots, not just in New Hampshire but nationwide. The netroots have proven to be a cash cow for candidates they unite behind, and Richardson -- like anyone in the field not named Clinton or Obama -- can use the money. But, more than money, Richardson's ad is a wink of sorts to the netroots; "I'm one of you," Richardson is subtly saying. . . .
Richardson is an underdog in the race and has to take chances if he wants to topple the big boys (and girl). Running an inside-the-box campaign ensures defeat for Richardson. These sorts of unorthodox moves might not get him where he needs to be either, but at least they show his campaign is thinking creatively.
The more reading and research I do, the more I think he does. It may be a slim chance, but there are several favorable signs. I've been going back and forth between Edwards, Richardson and (to some degree) Obama, but I recently decided to concentrate my financial support (which isn't much, to be honest) on Richardson alone. So I need to make that clear. Unlike previous posts, where I tried to refrain from pushing any of the candidates, this one can be seen as an endorsement. I'll continue to try and maintain objectivity when talking about the 2008 race, but at least you know where my money's going. It's still early, and I may change my mind, but until further notice, I'm supporting Richardson.
In my last post, I talked about the 1992 and 2004 campaigns for the Democratic Presidential Nomination, and where things stood in October-November of the previous year. Bill Clinton and John Kerry were both running in fifth place in the national polls, and were far behind in the early caucus and primary states. Richardson is actually in a better position in some ways than either of them were at the time, with strong, upward-trending numbers. Clinton and Kerry's numbers were much more up and down than Richardson's have been. Granted, though, the field of contenders this time is probably stronger than it was in 1991 or 2003. Richardson will probably need some help.
Richardson recognizes that it is his position on the war that is giving his candidacy traction. Of course, he's glad to discourse on how to tackle the crisis in Darfur and his concerns about Pakistan, and he's more than willing to detail his mainstream progressive positions on everything from gay rights to net neutrality. But the governor's antiwar position is now the primary focus of his media buys, his savvy campaign appearances and his aggressive new direct-mail fundraising appeals to liberal donors. That's smart politics. Richardson's Iraq stance is at once refreshing and reassuring for grassroots Democrats, who polls suggest are increasingly frustrated with the cautious approach of party leaders. In the former UN ambassador they get a candidate who knows his way around the world, who understands the delicacy of diplomacy, who actually negotiated with Saddam Hussein. . . . Richardson's résumé and his poll numbers assure him a place on the stage and an ability to keep prodding the frontrunners to clarify their murky positions on Iraq.
None of this means Richardson is on a fast track to the nomination. He's still playing catch-up in a brutal fundraising competition, and he remains a largely unexamined contender with his share of political baggage--the Energy Department's bungling of the Wen Ho Lee nuclear espionage scandal during Richardson's tenure is an embarrassing footnote, as is his post-Cabinet service on the boards of energy firms with troubling environmental records. But no 2008 Democratic candidate has come further on the basis of a bold stance on the essential issue of the race than Richardson. At the very least, he will make it difficult for Clinton, Obama and Edwards to continue dancing around the core questions of the war. And if the leading Democrats fail to make convincing moves toward withdrawal, Richardson is better positioned than any other candidate to ride that issue to the center of the competition.