June 28, 2007

Auditioning For Second Fiddle?

Bill Richardson has failed to gain much traction in the Democratic primary race, remaining mired in single digits. A majority of respondents have never heard of Richardson, the two-time Governor of New Mexico and the owner of perhaps the best resume in either primary campaign. Dana Milbank reports that Richardson has the look of a candidate who's hoping for second best:

Running for the vice presidency is a delicate operation, but Bill Richardson seems to be getting the hang of it.

The New Mexico governor is running for president, of course, but should that fail he has already mastered the first responsibility of the running mate: Don't overshadow the top of the ticket. This trait was in evidence yesterday when Richardson gave a lunchtime foreign policy speech in Washington at the exact moment Hillary Clinton was giving one of her own.

Leading a detailed, hour-long discussion about Iran in which words such as "fissionable" and "Abrahamic dialogue" were invoked, Richardson demonstrated why he is running a distant fifth for the Democratic presidential nomination, and why, in a CNN poll released this week, 54 percent of respondents had either never heard of him or had no opinion of him.

Clinton's speech was in a gilded ballroom of the Willard hotel, where waiters served roasted chicken and orzo salad at tables decorated with blue hydrangeas coordinated with the candidate's blue pantsuit. The Post's Anne Kornblut counted more than a dozen television cameras vying for the best angle.

Richardson's speech was at the National Guard Memorial Museum, where attendees balanced on their laps plastic boxes containing tuna sandwiches and bags of potato chips. Two television cameras had the place to themselves.

Milbank sounded an interesting note, considering his newspaper's latest series of attacks on the current Vice President. After reporting a challenge from an audience member to Richardson to make his foreign-policy "sexy" on the stump, Milbank writes that for a VP candidate,"weighty is sexy". Apparently Milbank must differ from the official Post line; their Dick Cheney series has done nothing but talk about how frightening it is to have a VP with so much influence -- mainly on foreign policy.

Otherwise, Milbank essentially captures the moment perfectly. Richardson would present the Republicans with a nightmare if he won the nomination. He has 27 years of experience in both the legislative and executive branches, as well as in international diplomacy. He may be the most qualified presidential candidate, in that sense, in my lifetime -- and instead, the Democrats are about to nominate someone whose highest qualification for the office is her previous residency in the White House.

Richardson would probably take the bottom of the ticket, too. After all, he has nowhere to go after he finishes his current term in office except back to Congress. He would have a high visibility, and could lend his talents to a Clinton presidency with a minimum of adjustment, having worked closely with Bill Clinton throughout the 1990s. It would lend a certain gravitas to Clinton's candidacy that it lacks, and Richardson's call for full-out retreat from Iraq will help her hold the anti-war activists who dislike her at the moment.

However, can anyone see Hillary allowing Richardson more than a short leash? She runs whatever she has, and the Presidency will certainly be no exception. Given the attacks on Cheney's influence and her own somewhat lightweight experience, she's not about to give anyone the impression that she's being run by a cabal behind the scenes consisting of the two Bills.

If elected as VP, Richardson will likely be attending a lot of funerals and VFW events -- returning to the traditional second-fiddle role of the American VP.


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Comments (7)

Posted by Monkei | June 28, 2007 7:06 AM

Not sure where the bar for VP is now at this time after Dick ... but I do think assuming that HC get the nomination, that Richardson does bring the most to her chances in the way of delivering some possible new states and not hurting her in existing states she would probably carry. As we know these elections will be close and an additional state here or there would work out nicely.

Posted by Tom Shipley | June 28, 2007 7:31 AM

It's never happen, but I'm rooting for Feingold as VP.

Richardson does seem like the perfect VP candidate.

But, regardless of who the new VP is (republican or democrat), their first act in office with surely be to open the blinds. (and I apologize in advance if that comes off as racist. I just don't know anymore).

Posted by superdestroyer | June 28, 2007 7:42 AM

If you saw his last speech about Iraq, it was a total pander that the media failed to call him on. He proposed a total withdraw of military forces from Iraq except for the normal number of Marines to be left at the Embassy.

Does he really think that any country will try to maintain an embassy in the Green Zone without the presence of U.S. military in Iraq. Does he really want another embassy hostage crisis.

He may be expereince but maybe everyone should go back and review his long term judgement.

Posted by Ben R. | June 28, 2007 10:27 AM

My guess is that Hillary is leading the polls not only because of her expensive campaigning, but also due to the fact that she's a woman. Women voters outnumber men and generally women can identify with other women better. Unfortunatly votes get skewed like that and don't truly represent the mojority of the citizens.

Posted by chsw | June 28, 2007 11:36 AM

I think that if Richardson was really running for the top of the ticket, he would be far more confrontational with Senator Clinton and challenge every effort she makes to take credit for any successes of her husband's administration. He was often there when she was not. He should not run to the left of her, he swhould try to run AT her.


Posted by Sandy P | June 28, 2007 1:07 PM

Rumor has it he has more bimbo eruptions than the former rapist-in-chief.

Posted by GeorgeH | June 28, 2007 3:33 PM

Being Hillary's VP would be a completely ceremonial spot, pretty dull for a seasoned player.
I think Richardson is auditioning for Secretary of State.