Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Nevada Eight: Big Bill's First Date; No Nerves, But A Kiss For Hillary, Plus: Enviros Heat Up Roundhouse And The Airwaves 

Governor Richardson strode onto a Carson City stage Wednesday with aplomb, beginning what he hopes will be a long walk into the national consciousness and a place on the 2008 Democratic presidential ticket. One of my Alligators watching the forum at which eight candidates appeared separately (Obama did not make it) to deliver a brief speech and then answer questions from a moderator, believed Richardson "went up a notch" in the eyes of the political community and the national press, just about the only ones paying attention at this early stage of the campaign.

"If there was any question of whether he is able to hold his own with the other candidates, they were put to rest. He gave a solid performance, with no big mistakes. He also came across serious and informed, debunking the frat boy image that has been spread about him." declared our Senior Democratic Alligator. (The video of the forum is posted here.)

The Guv's remarks focused on the now familiar themes of his international experience, work as a governor and "having solved problems the other candidates talk about."

He peppered his talk to the friendly labor audience of about 600 with references to accomplishments he has had in New Mexico, including, he said, the addition of 84,000 "high-wage" jobs. He may be tested on that. Not the 84,000, but the high wage assertion.

He made strong points on foreign policy, drawing a laugh when he related how President Clinton sent him on foreign missions "because the bad guys like Richardson." He called for direct talks with Iran and Syria saying, "you don't make peace with your friends; you make peace with your enemies."

The forum was the Governor's first lengthy national broadcast appearance since announcing his candidacy last month. C-SPAN ran the afternoon event live. His pre-forum prep and years of experience on camera paid off. If he rambled a bit and covered too much ground, they were minor infractions. He seemed completely comfortable in his own skin and said so after the forum. It was as if he had been waiting for the opportunity. And, of course, he was.

Big Bill appeared to be the only male candidate who did not wear a suit, opting instead for a blue blazer, orange tie and khaki colored pants. "He dressed for the West," said another of the Gators. "He knew his audience and he played to them and to those watching on TV in Nevada where he hopes to score an early caucus victory."


There was some guffawing when Big Bill took sides with Hillary Clinton in her first Barack attack. The Guv was asked at the forum if Obama should apologize for negative comments made about Hillary by Hollywood heavy David Geffen, an Obama supporter. The Guv replied: "Yes, if we are going to win, we have to be positive." Was it a case of boot licking? Why did the Guv have to take sides at all? It had observers recalling that it was President Clinton who gave him his big national break. Is he looking for a second one from Hillary, like a place on the ticket as Veep or a job as secretary of state? Or will the two "minority" candidates--Obama & Richardson--be pitted against one another? They're just asking.


Can radio ads and a push in other media aimed at the Legislature make a difference in a big fight over a bill that would give a multinational company an $85 million tax credit for a coal plant on the Navajo Nation? Various state and national environmental groups hope so as they argue such a plant would be a major source of pollution. They are also trying to put pressure on Governor Richardson to use his influence to kill the measure scheduled for consideration Friday before the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

But it is Las Cruces Dem State Rep. Joni Gutierrez who is really feeling the heat. The former NM Dem Party chair first voted to table the bill, but then later joined with committee Republicans to have it reconsidered. Another committee vote is scheduled on the coal credit for Sithe Global Friday. It will be one of the more closely watched votes because of the media push. Joni has refused to answer questions about her reversal from Las Cruces blogger Heath Haussamen but if the heat gets hot enough, she just might.

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