Thursday, January 17, 2008

Richardson presidential bid and the effect on the race overall

It has been 1 week since Governor Richardson gave up his effort to be the Democratic nominee and I have been doing a lot of soul searching and trying to figure out what I had been doing for the last 15 months. It has been very difficult to figure out what the point was. What about the hours I spent recruiting people online? Or the "sick" days I took to work on local events? Or the money I spent on phone bills and swag?

Was it all wasted?

My initial feelings were that it was all a waste. Sure, I made some nice contacts and had some unique experiences, but what did the Richardson candidacy achieve? It didn't achieve the goal it set out to - win the White House. Therefore it was a failure.

Yet, re-reading the Governor's departing speech, I realize that the Governor made some very important improvements in the national dialogue and positions of the remaining Democratic candidates.

Even though we were pushing the idea that 2013 is when Edwards, Clinton and Obama would remove soldiers from Iraq, the truth is that most are speaking of removing troops within 12-18 months. There is no longer any equivocation from Clinton about getting troops out. Obama is no longer just proposing to "get out in a better fashion than we got in." In the last debate all three candidates were tripping all over themselves to talk about removing troops from Iraq. Had Governor Richardson never entered the race, I doubt we'd be at this place in the conversation.

Secondly, the Governor was pushing a new "Manhattan Project" to get America off a carbon-based energy system to focus on renewables and efficiencies. It was a big hit with Iowa voters and suddenly became a key plank in the Obama and then Hillary stump speech. They are on board too. Now, they don't have the passion the Governor does for this sort of thing, but at least they are talking real ideas and real commitment to a new energy economy.

Finally, he chastised his fellow candidates when they turned away from policies and ideas and into personal attacks on one another. The Democratic party has traditionally been a circular firing squad during the primary process, but this time around the discourse is civil and focused on substance. Governor Richardson can't take the entire credit for this "high road", but without his early leadership on this issue, the race could have degraded very quickly.

A week after this all wrapped up, I've decided I'd do it all again, even knowing the outcome. And should Governor Richardson become the VP nominee, I'll be right back into the thick of things.

And it wasn't just me reflecting on this. The Albuquerque Tribune wrote an editorial: Bill Richardson was positive influence on campaigns of others that comes to the same conclusion I do.