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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Beyond November: The Governor Who Would Be Prez; We Update, Plus: GOP U.S. Senate Race Fizzles, And: Vigil Trial Touches Guv Appointee 

A tidbit from the national political blog Wonkette serves as a good launching point today for an early take on our Governor's presidential ambitions. First the tidbit, then the analysis.

"We hear that Bill Richardson (D-NM) is hosting several top political consultants at the Governor's mansion this week, as part of a two-day retreat to refine his national message leading up to his 2008 presidential bid. Thoughts on how to deal with the mini-scandal over his exaggeration of his baseball...are most welcome." Zinged the D.C. based blog.

As for the Guv's national message, he seems to have many of them and on every imaginable subject thrown his way by the cable TV news broadcasts on which he is an ubiquitous presence. He may come to focus on fewer as the national debate sharpens in the months ahead and also so he can provide his embryonic candidacy with a clear definition, ala the John Edwards pitch of "Two Americas."

WHERE HE'S AT

As a politician who naturally hugs the middle, Richardson's national appeal is clear; his trouble appears to be with the nominating wing of the party which often demands and gets ideological purity from its nominees. You might say Hillary Clinton has the same problem, perhaps making room for candidates with more edge.

Richardson is a tireless poll watcher; witness his increasing opposition to the Iraq war, coming well after the public moved. Also, excepting his initial and unsuccessful run for Congress in 1980, the Governor has been virtually unopposed. The safe, conservative course has been rewarding. But that will not be the case for the Prez prize.

While message will be critical, what will be more revealing is how he handles the sharp and increasingly negative campaigning he will be exposed to if and when he enters the upper tier of hopefuls. He has steamrollered over opposition throughout his career; negative attacks don't sting much when you have 20 point leads in the polls. But the playground he's entering is full of playmates who don't back off when bullied; they know how to score.

Grace under pressure and a thick skin are de rigeur in the battle for ultimate political power in the American nation. Despite his record of electoral success, these aspects of Richardson's political personality remain largely untested.

At 58, Bill Richardson still has something to learn about Bill Richardson. They will be lessons shared with and graded by New Mexico and the nation.

THE BARREN SENATE TRAIL

There's just no joy in Mudville, otherwise known as the desultory campaign for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate and the right to take on incumbent Democrat Jeff Bingaman in November.

The latest campaign spending reports shows fundraising for the trio of GOP hopefuls has fizzled, with Farmington urologist Allen McCulloch topping the field with $128,000 in the bank. David Pfeffer comes in with just 18 grand and ABQ State Senator Joe Carraro is down to single digits, with less than 10k to spend on his effort.

McCulloch made a splash last year when he raised nearly 200k from friends and associates in the Four Corners, but he has failed to build momentum. Still, he seems to be only candidate who will be able to do a TV buy and that may be enough to push him over the top.

Meanwhile, Senator Jeff is flush with nearly $2 million in the bank. Talk abut all dressed up and nowhere to go! In light of the sad state of affairs on the R side, Bingaman supporters may demand refunds.

TRIAL BRUSHES FOURTH FLOOR

Big Bill wasted no time in throwing overboard Guy Riordan, the securities broker he named to the State Game Commission and whose name surfaced in the federal corruption trial of ex-Treasurer Robert Vigil. The Guv ousted Riordan from the state post last night and says he is going to return campaign contributions Riordan gave him. Ex-Treasurer Montoya claims Riordan paid him kickbacks for state business, sometimes in the restroom stalls of restaurants where they would meet. Riordan's attorney called the allegations lies. The feds have not indicted Riordan.

Political observers have been wondering if the treasurer scandal would brush against other political figures. They are getting their answer this week as the drama continues to unfold at the Federal courthouse in downtown ABQ. Riordan has given well over $20,000 in campaign contributions to Big Bill who now says that money will be given to NM charities. We blogged last week that Dem state auditor candidate Jeff Armijo was checking his records to see if Vigil gave him any campaign donations. He said if Vigil did, they would be returned. Vigil mentioned Armijo on FBI tapes, telling an associate Armijo was a candidate they should support.

BOTTOM LINES

Yes, Letitia Montoya was endorsed by the labor union AFSCME in the four way Dem race for secretary of state. But, no, she is not a member of the Public Employee Retirement Board (PERA) as we blogged. The secretary of state does sit on the board and the union says it thinks Montoya would do a good job on it, if elcted....By the way, Montoya is the decided underdog in the race. The frontrunners are Stephanie Gonzales and Mary Herrera. Ex-secretary Shirley Hooper is also contending. Montoya ran for the Dem nod in the 90's and lost. Gonzales is a two time winner. Herrera is Bernalillo county clerk. Vickie Perea, ex-ABQ city councilor, will lead the R's.

Glad to have you aboard. Drop me a line with your news and, as always, thanks for your continued support. We're #1, but still trying harder!

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
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