Friday, January 11, 2008

Questions At The End Of The Trail: Where Did The Money Go? Why No Endorsement? Why No Senate Bid? The OutLook For Bill? Plus: Di Says She Likes Hill 

Who were the two happiest people in New Mexico shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday? Well, if not the happiest surely GOP US Reps Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce were among the top ten. At his presidential withdrawal speech, Big Bill openly embraced the Dem US Senate candidacy of US Rep. Tom Udall, finally ending speculation that he might seek the Domenici seat. Pearce or Wilson would have had little chance against Bill, but either would have a fighting chance against Udall.


Richardson told the crowd gathered at the Capitol Rotunda to hear his presidential swan song (Video) that his campaign raised $22 million. An impressive sum. But where did it all go? Why did the campaign not have television ads up for the final three days of the critical New Hampshire primary? Republicans have long attacked Big Bill as a big spender. It looks like they have fresh ammo. It is nearly unimaginable that the campaign had no New Hampshire TV after raising so much money. You wonder how the big contributors feel about it.


Bill Clinton made Bill Richardson energy secretary and ambassador to the United Nations. In other words, he made his political career. So why didn't the Governor endorse Hillary Clinton Thursday? It would have been a political coup if he had done so. 2004 Dem prez nominee John Kerry was dumping on Hill (and his former running mate John Edwards) Thursday by endorsing Obama for the Dem nod. It was a golden opportunity for Bill to get back in the the Clintons' good graces and provide a counterpoint to Kerry. It also would have helped him recover from his campaign's dissing of Hillary In Iowa where they threw support to Obama.

Richardson's endorsement would never have been more valuable. By scoring only two percent in Iowa and five percent in New Hampshire, he has few bargaining chips and the one big one he had he kept in his pocket.


While Bill was not ready to endorse a fellow prez contender, NM Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish was indicating she will endorse Hillary because she would like to see a woman become president. And she also would like to see a woman become governor of New Mexico--in case you were wondering.


The decision by Richardson to turn down a shot at the open US Senate seat is apparently based on Bill's genuine feelings that he has "been there and done that." But by not going for it, life may be a little harder for NM Dems. If he ran for the Senate and won, the Guv would get the Dems that much closer to the 60 votes they need to move legislation; Diane Denish's chances of retaining the Governor's office for the Dems in 2010 would have improved as she would be running as the incumbent, and the D's chances of carrying swing state NM and its five electoral votes in the presidential election would have gone way up with Richardson leading the state ticket.


With his shot at a big job with any new Dem administration foggy at best, some of the Alligators are saying look for the Guv to lower his expectations. That means we might hear his name for slots other than the rarefied veep or secretary of state positions. If Bill doesn't relish the prospect of spending three lame-duck years at the helm of NM government, casting his net wider could still get him back in the national government. Meantime, New Mexicans used the Web to say how they felt about Bill getting out of the prez race.


There is a price for losing, and the Governor knows it. The Legislature will be less intimidated as they poke at the Governor's wounds from the presidential trail. The Senate will be even more independent and we could even see the state House, supremely docile under the leadership of Speaker Lujan, start to balk at executive power.

The only legislation Bill mentioned in his prez withdrawal speech was extending health care to all New Mexicans by the end of his term. It is probably premature to pronounce his plan dead, but every lobbyist and lawmaker we have asked says his plan is not going to get through the short 30 day session.

It's not just politics slowing the health proposal; it's the economy and the fear by a number of lawmakers that we could be sliding into a recession. If that's true, state revenues will decline further, making an expensive extension of health care look more like a luxury than a necessity.


Big Bill campaign manager Dave Contarino was the Guv's chief of staff prior to the prez effort. He is not expected to return to that post which is now filled by James Jimenez. Contarino is a longtime Dem consultant who owns a Santa Fe title company. Amanda Cooper, deputy campaign manager, will now ease over to the US Senate campaign of her father, Rep. Tom Udall.

And for all you Guv staffers who enjoyed a relaxed atmosphere while the boss was on the road, the party is over. As Bill said yesterday, "I'm Back!"

Thanks to Jim Baca for today's Big Bill photo.

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