Friday, June 29, 2007

Gone in 60 Seconds

I don't envy Pahl Shipley. The BR4P communications director is typically in charge of touting all things Bill Richardson. Not bad work, if you can get it. But it seems like Shipley has been forced to do spin/damage control after every major television appearance the governor has made in the last month.

Today's press release regarding last night's Democratic presidential forum at Howard University celebrates Richardson's "strong debate performance" that "showed again that he is the candidate with the boldest vision and the strongest record to lead America forward."

Not exactly.

Richardson actually started off strong, giving relatively succinct, articulate answers to questions about racial inequality and education. The Guv was focused and memorable. Then the bottom fell out. Richardson was the first candidate to be presented with a question about combating high HIV/AIDs rates in the black community. He fumbled it miserably. The topic clearly took the governor by surprise and it showed. What followed was a painful ramble about moral imperatives, condoms, needles, Africa, more needles and praise for George W. Bush.

The latter (supporting Bush's funding for combating AIDs in Africa) was bad enough in an anti-Bush, pro-Dem atmosphere (especially considering that, if memory serves, Bush's efforts in Africa are tied to Neocon platforms like abstinence instead of condoms). Even the Republicans name-check Bush as little as possible. But Richardson also stammered twice about needing "more needles." Presumably he was referencing the use of clean needles and/or implementing needle exchange programs but he didn't actually say that. Just "more needles," which made little sense to anyone. And I swear he nearly choked (possibly at the thought of conservative swing voters slipping away) before he said "condoms."

The crowd was deathly silent after Richardson finished speaking. Even Mike Gravel, who answered the question with a diatribe about the War on Drugs, received some polite applause. Subsequently, Richardson slipped back into his old routine of offering meandering answers that frequently went well over his allotted time limit. At one point, Richardson told moderator Tavis Smiley "I'm almost finished" while postulating about tax cuts. Smiley responded, "Yes, you are" and promptly cut Richardson off in favor of a smirking John Edwards. Ouch.

Richardson rebounded from the HIV/AIDs debacle, sort of, with his answers on job outsourcing, tax cuts and Darfur. But he never fully recovered, diminishing what would have otherwise been arguably his best debate performance.

It's no secret that Richardson excels at kissing hands and shaking babies (or whatever). But if The Guv becomes a serious contender, people will start paying attention to what he says on national TV. He can still afford some slip-ups at this stage (I mean, who watches PBS at 7 pm on a Thursday in June?). But he's going to have to clean up his performances quickly if he's going to survive increasing scrutiny in the months to come.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Lights, Camera, Action

Bill Richardson (and the other seven Dems) will be going live on PBS in about five hours. The format appears to be more "forum" than "debate" but the difference is basically negligible when you have eight presidential candidates on the same stage at the same time.

Tavis Smiley will moderate while a panel of three journalists will pepper the candidates with questions about health care, education, criminal justice, immigration, environmental issues, the "digital divide," economic development and whether they'd rather be stranded on an island with Ginger or Mary Ann (a pre-forum poll showed a split among the candidates with three Gingers, three Mary Anns and, disturbingly, two Skippers).

But the forum will have plenty of competition for its primetime (7 pm start in NM) television run. And some of the television shows airing at the same time also have odd correlations to the presidential campaign. If only they ran simultaneously...

"The NBA Draft (ESPN)": With the 23rd selection in the first round, the New York Knicks select...Joe Biden, a 65-year-old shooting guard (and senior US Senator) from Delaware. He's a streaky shooter with little jumping ability and a bum knee, but he talks a good game. Subsequently, the Richardson campaign issues a press release asserting that the governor was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 12th pick.

"Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" (Fox): In the case of most presidential candidates, probably. But the jury's still out on Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo.

"Ugly Betty" (ABC): Dennis Kucinich and most of the Republican field release a knowing sigh.

"My Name is Earl" (NBC): Mike Gravel forgets his name. Again. And forgets to wear pants. Again.

"World's Craziest Police Chases" (Court TV): An SUV carrying Bill Richardson (and driven by a New Mexico state trooper) attempts to elude a Bernalillo County Sheriff trying to pull the governor's caravan over for speeding.

"Best Places to Find Cash and Treasures" (Travel Channel): Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama visit a Democratic Party banquet in Beverly Hills.

"America's Funniest Home Videos" (Nickelodeon): Assorted YouTube clips of Gravel and Dennis Kucinich as well as Bill Richardson campaign ads and the governor's appearance on Meet the Press.

"Extreme Makeover" (Style): Bill Richardson sports a Moo Moo, John Edwards dons a dashiki and Rudy Guiliani tries a houndstooth derby on for size.

"The Sixth Sense" (TNT): Tavis Smiley sees dead people. Then realizes it's just Gravel taking a nap while Chris Dodd talks about his universal health care plan.

"Deadliest Catch" (Discovery): Biden candidly discusses the burning sensation he experienced after a particulary rowdy Theta Chi party at the University of Delaware in the spring of 1963.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Iran, Uran

Ladies and gentlemen, can I please have your attention. Gov. Bill Richardson has just been handed an urgent and horrifying foreign policy statement. I need all of you to stop what you're doing and listen:


Ah, to be a campaign speechwriter. Alas, Richardson's "major speech" (BR4P's words, not mine) tomorrow in D.C. will almost certainly be very serious and very presidential. El Gobernador will discuss his position on Iran to the Center for National Policy tomorrow around lunch time. Suffice it to say, "Nuke 'em all!" or "Let's just send Ahmadinejad some kittens" will not be phrases included in the speech.

Here's a guess: Big Bill will satisfy the hawks by talking heavy about imposing tough sanctions, perhaps along with an idle threat like not taking "any option" off the table (i.e. Fat Man and Little Boy circa 2009), if Iran doesn't discontinue its nuclear program. But he will also offer an olive branch to the doves by insisting that hard-nosed international diplomacy (sugarcoated with economic incentives) should be the first option, complete with an anecdote about former UN Ambassador Bill talking to Saddam, Castro and/or Mussolini after Bill Clinton said "Let's send Richardson. Bad guys love Richardson."

Bing. Bang. Boom. I just saved you an hour of your life, Center for National Policy. You can thank me later.

In the meantime, The Guv is in Iowa City this morning/afternoon before heading to NYC for fundraisers this evening. Tomorrow morning is Boston (fundraising) and the rest of the day is D.C. (Iran/fundraising). Thursday is the next Democratic Presidential Debate (this one held at Howard University in D.C., aired by PBS and moderated by Tavis Smiley). Friday will be spent either popping champagne or licking wounds after the debate while raising cash in El Paso and Las Cruces. And, with a little more than two weeks before the next FEC campaign finance report deadline, the heat is on to raise dinero.

After all, more cash means more BR4P-generated polls like the one unveiled yesterday by campaign headquarters that shows Richardson inching up to 13 percent favorability among likely Iowa caucus-goers. The campaign even went one step further (with the help of polling hired hand Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin and Associates) by surveying the "likeliest" voters, which moved Richardson past Barack Obama into the rarefied air of third place and 18 percent.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Casting Call

Bill Richardson has used up most of the tread on his "rock star" line (i.e. "I'm running against two rock stars but the American people don't want or need a rock star for a president"). But given the scripted nature of presidential politics, there's still some mileage to be gained from a "movie star" analogy.

And since there's a momentary lull in the campaign (and because we watched Ocean's 13 the other night) I wondered what it would be like if current presidential candidates were cast in Ocean's 11 (the 2001 version, not the original).

I've yet to learn how to not act on coming soon to a theater (or diner, if you live in Iowa) near you...

Hillary Clinton as Danny Ocean (George Clooney). Both are the better half of attractive scene-stealers (Bill Clinton and Julia "Tess" Roberts). Both have spent time in prison (Ocean literally, Clinton figuratively). Both are smooth and calculating enough to give you the impression that they're the masterminds when, in fact, someone else is doing most of the heavy lifting.

Barack Obama as Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt). Both are charming and charismatic with a little renegade streak running through them. They're magnetic despite their flaws (eating constantly and sleeping with federal agents for Rusty and smoking and inexperience for Obama). Plus, their names are fun to say: Rusty, Obama, Rusty, Obama.

John Edwards as Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon). Both are handsome, intelligent and capable of running the show yet are always playing third fiddle to Rusty and Danny (or Hillary and Obama). The kind of character you root for without really caring whether they win or lose.

Bill Richardson as Frank Catton (Bernie Mac). Richardson is actually an amalgam of several characters (a little Livingston, some Linus and maybe a bit of Basher) but he fits in here because Frank always seems to be in the middle of everything without being part of the braintrust (Danny, Rusty and Linus). He's a useful guy to have around (either as a card-dealer or as a Presidential undercard) but his charisma is most useful as a distraction while the others raid a vault, steal diamonds or win the Democratic nomination.

Joe Biden as Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle). Both are likeable characters, albeit for different facets of the same reason. Basher is entertaining because of his British wit and his tendency to blow things up. Biden is entertaining for his New England wit and his tendency to self-implode with incendiary comments like "You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent."

Dennis Kucinich as The Amazing Yen (Shaobo Quin). Both are elfin in stature but agile at maneuvering in tight spots (Yen squeezing into a room service cart and Kucinich convincing people he's a US Rep from Ohio instead of an unemployed Keebler Elf). That said, you don’t really notice either of them until they’re doing a backflip in a bank vault (or shouting “No strings!” at a Democratic forum).

Mike Gravel as Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner). Both are old, crotchety and short-tempered if they don't take their pills. Both are prone to nonsensical outbursts. But while they're a serious threat to keel over at any given moment, they both fulfill a purpose. Saul is an old, crotchety, short-tempered master of impersonating German businessmen and Gravel is an an old, crotchety, short-tempered master of impersonating old, crotchety, short-tempered former Senators from Alaska.

Chris Dodd as Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison). While both Dodd & Livingston (sounds like a brokerage firm) hold heady credentials (Dodd as a US Senator and Dell as a computer nerd) nobody really pays much attention to either of them.

Mitt Romney as The Mormon Twins (Casey Affleck and Scott Caan). No, not just because Romney is Mormon. More because pre-candidacy Romney is a completely different person than post-candidacy Romney. And his two halfs tend to argue with each other a lot (I support a woman's right to choose! No, I don't! Yes, I do! No, I don't...etc.).

Rudy Guiliani as Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould). Both Rudy and Reuben seem to play big roles in the larger scheme of things but it's tough to say what, exactly, they do. Other than talk funny and bankroll nefarious operations (casino heists and/or presidential campaigns) with hard (millions of dollars) and political (9/11) currency.

John McCain as Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). Both are stiff, cold and more than willing to give up Julia Roberts to either A) Get their money back or B) Win over the conservative right.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


The Guv took last weekend off. After stops in NYC and DC yesterday and today, Richardson will have another day of rest tomorrow. Good for him. The man has been running ragged for months now. But it might not be a mere coincidence that he chose this week to take a breather.

It's been a rough month for BR4P. First was Meet The Press. Then the presidential debate. In the interim, Richardson sold off his oil stocks and agreed to stop name-dropping dead Marines for political gain. But he's taken another hit with this story in the current issue of The New Republic.

TNR writer Ryan Lizza basically nails Richardson to the wall. Not necessarily in any sort of malicious way. Just surgical. Granted, Lizza tossed in some gratuitious snark ("frat-boy-in-chief," etc.) and probably humped the scalp-tickling and hot dogs a bit much. I also don't think I've ever heard anyone in New Mexico call Richardson "Govzilla" (although it does have a nice ring to it). But the story did dissect The Guv's weaknesses along with exposing the kinks in the armor Richardson's built around his resume platform. And that "they're all called Kim" comment about North Koreans isn't going to win Richardson the Asian American Association endorsement.

Then again, there's something to be said about the Everyman candidate, whether such posturing is scripted or genuine. The TNR story isn't exactly one for the BR4P scrapbook, but it does portray him as an oddly endearing political oddity as much as it does a clueless, conniving opportunist.

After all, certain segments of the electorate love to see guys like Bill Clinton wolfing down fries at Mickey D's or Bill Richardson tossing F-bombs while he tears through a hot dog at the ballpark. But, luckily for Big Bill, most of those folks probably don't subscribe to TNR.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Poll Position

Governor, we have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that you're up in the latest polls. The bad news're down in the latest polls.

At least according to the head-scratching mixed messages slowly filtering in from pulsetakers in the aftermath of the June 3 New Hampshire debate.

First, the good news. On Monday, a CNN/WMUR poll in New Hamp suggested The Guv is now netting as high as 11 percent (when excluding Al Gore) of Granite State voters. In response, BR4P headquarters breathlessly exclaimed "Richardson now in top tier" in a press release that points out that the poll shows B-Rich as close as two percentage points from John Edwards. A recent LA Times/Bloomberg Poll also had Richardson earning a point (from 3 to 4) between April 5-9 and June 7-10 (What, you guys too good for May?).

Now, the bad news. The LA/Bloom poll has Joe Biden (Richardson's primary competition for "top of the second-tier," if not VP consideration) surging ahead of The Guv with a four-point swing (from 1 to 5). Also, a recent AP/Ipsos Poll had Richardson slipping a point (from 4 to 3) between March 5-7 and June 4-6 (they're too good for May and April, apparently).

But the worst news comes from a recent Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll that has the Richardson campaign in a death spiral, dropping three points (from 4 to 1) between May 15-16 and June 5-6. It's the rough equivalent of Hillary Clinton announcing her support for genocide as a solution to overpopulation in China, subsequently dropping her from 40 percent to 10.

What's worse, the perceived drop in the Fox poll means that The Guv has theoretically fallen into a three-way tie for last place alongside Chris Dodd, Mike Gravel and "Other". I'm not sure which is worse: being tied with Gravel or Other. Although people do seem to like Other's position on ambiguity.

Then again, it is Fox News we're talking about. Nevertheless, Richardson will have to have a strong showing at next month's debate in South Carolina. Otherwise he runs the risk of proving Fox News right and thus negating all of human existence.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Big Bad Wolf

As if selling oil company stocks and wilting on national television wasn't enough to worry about, The Guv also apparently endorses Mexican wolves eating small children.

At least according to a contributor on the official John Edwards blog who posted an entry ("Bill Richardson Supports Wolves Stalking Children") on Monday criticizing Richardson's support for reintroducing endangered Mexican wolves into the wild.

"SisterFlash" asserts that the governor, "in an attempt to pander to the greens and environmental extreme, decided the risk to rural children was acceptable." This after three incidents in recent months involving wolves and children in New Mexico and beyond. None of the children were harmed, mind you, but that's not a chance that "SisterFlash" (nom de plume for Little Red Riding Hood?) wants to take. The blogger also suggests Richardson will support coyotes attacking kids in New Jersey, alligators killing children in Floria and mountain lions stalking young 'uns in Arizona.

Do you hear that, Ed? Bears. Now you're putting the whole station in jeopardy.

Psssshhh. Then again, it would certainly distinguish Richardson from the other Democratic candidates if he were to launch a "Save the Mexican Wolf: Feed it Defenseless Farm Kids" platform. But the governor probably has bigger predators to worry about these days.

When he isn't putting honey marinade on kindergarteners, The Guv is hitting the campaign trail hard this week. After the debate on Sunday, Richardson was in Chicago on Monday to speak at a forum for the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. Monday night was fundraising in Phoenix. Tuesday and Wednesday saw Richardson passing around a hat in San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Last night he was giving a speech to the Henderson Democratic Club in Nevada.

This morning, the governor was in Las Vegas (NV) and right now is probably in a plane somewhere over Utah on his way to a fundraiser in Denver tonight. Tomorrow is Denver and Pueblo, then Alamogordo and Carlsbad. Saturday, he's taking the day off to sprinkle paprika on Mrs. Campbell's third-grade class, then he's back in California for a fundraiser in Los Angeles on Sunday. A visit through the woods to grandmother's house may have to wait until next week.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Debating the Debate

As eight-person debates go, it was an entertaining affair. The June 3 CNN prez debate among the announced Dem candidates only offered a few true news bytes, but it did provide another test for the wannabes.

And one wannabe in particular, Big Bill, seemed a bit out of his element. From my sofa, he seemed too scripted, often unable to directly answer questions concisely, and more to the point, not able to react as quickly as the format required.

Some of my favorite Richardson moments:

Moderator Wolf Blitzer interrupted Richardson's answer to a question about universal health care when the guv cited how his administration here in NM is "getting junk food out of the schools."

Then there was the moment when Richardson disclosed that we New Mexicans have a new name for our state - "We call it the clean energy state," Big Bill offered, apparently unaware that NM's economy is completely tied to the fortunes of extensive oil, gas and coal mining.

Richardson also plugged his proposal for a "hero's health card" (nice) and his off-hand suggestion that Bill Clinton could have a role in a future Richardson administration as special Mideast envoy.

The guv did score with a major compliment from Hillary Clinton, who referred to him as one of "the great diplomats" the USA has in its roster. He also shook up the debate (for a couple minutes, at least) with his proposal that the US threaten to boycott the upcoming Beijing summer Olympics if China doesn't do more to lean on its friends in Sudan over atrocities in Darfur.

Overall, I thought Richardson's performance was OK. Not terrible, but definitely not stellar either. More than anything, I was left thinking that Big Bill is throwback to a different era of politicians where hashing out (backroom) compromises was the currency of the land, not snappy or eloquent made-for-TV repartee.

But he does have one hell of a resume!

Spin Cycle

BR4P headquarters kept relatively tight-lipped after the governor's Meet the Press hiccup on May 27. Conversely, the campaign is frantically performing PR triage after Sunday's debate in New Hampshire.

Right now, the lead photo link on the campaign home page even goes so far as to boast the headline, "A Clear Winner in New Hampshire." That's what you call taking editorial liberties. The link connects to a BR4P press release touting his "strong showing" while, elsewhere on the Web site, the campaign includes at least one YouTube link featuring a Richardson convert "loosed" by Barack Obama and a few blog posts praising his performance as evidence for Richardson's "victory".

It's as if the Chicago Bears issued a press release following the Super Bowl announcing that they, not the Colts, actually won the game. I'm a Bears fan so I'd be cool with a little revisionist history on that end, but it still wouldn't make it true. Nevertheless, that's how this game is played. Participants in tonight's GOP debate take note.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Any Given Sunday

Gov. Richardson struggled in the national spotlight for the second Sunday in a row last night, this time at the New Hampshire presidential debate. The bite marks from Tim Russert's serrated teeth were still fresh after last week's Meet The Press feeding frenzy but a lack of camera time probably hurt The Guv more than anything during the debate.

Richardson had trouble shrink-wrapping his points into short sound bites and, when he did get the conch, moderator Wolf Blitzer was nipping at his heels to stay on-topic so aggressively that the governor's positions ultimately seemed more vague and less coherent than they actually were. He wasn't unhinged (like, say, crazy uncle Gravel) but he also didn't do anything to separate himself from the pack. That is, other than making a seemingly off-hand comment about boycotting the Beijing Olympics if China doesn't step up its efforts in Darfur. That's probably the only position of Richardson's that will get any pub, which could do more harm than good for his campaign.

The top three candidates (Edwards, Hillary and Obama) had the lion's share of face time, but worse for the BR4P campaign was Joe Biden's strong showing. For weeks, Richardson has been widely acknowledged as the top "second-tier" candidate but Biden's forceful performance may have chipped away at that distinction.

SFR will have a more detailed analysis of Richardson's debate performance later this week. In the meantime, here's my debate score card and whether each candidate's stock rose, fell or stayed the same afterwards:

1. Barack Obama (stock up)
2. John Edwards (up)
3. Hillary Clinton (even)
4. Joe Biden (up)
5. Dennis Kucinich (up, as much as it can be)
6. Bill Richardson (down)
7. Chris Dodd (even)
8. Mike Gravel (down, if that's even possible)

The good news for the Richardson camp is that there's still seven months until the Iowa caucus and most Americans were probably more concerned with the Sopranos finale and/or the Red Sox/Yankees game rather than the debate.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Sunday Morning Coming Down

CNN will broadcast the New Hampshire Democratic presidential candidate debate live at 5 pm (New Mex time) tonight. The debate is expected to last two hours and will be followed by a two-hour, post-debate "Raw Politics" segment. It's probably foolish to expect that "Raw Politics" is anything like "WWE Monday Night Raw" but I'll still hold out hope that Kucinich will wack Dodd in the head with a folding chair.

St. Anselm College in Manchester will be the host venue for both the eight Dems debating tonight and 10 Repubs on Tuesday. Security probably won't be an issue since the new director of the US Secret Service (Mark Sullivan) is a member of the St. Anselm class of '77. Which is a feather in the cap for St. A, but also probably led to some awkward conversations at the 30-year reunion:

"Mark! It's been ages!"
"Ted, you old goat! How is Marilyn and the kids? Oh, by the way, I've been meaning to talk to you about the suspicious phone calls you've been making to Islamabad lately..."

Two classmates who tried to spike the punch at the reunion were last seen with black bags over their heads as they were loaded into an unmarked van by five government agents.

The Guv will, once again, have his hands full trying to get a memorable word in edge-wise with all the preening, clucking and flying feathers of his compadres. He's obviously not alone. Hillary is probably the only candidate who can afford to play it completely safe at this stage in the game. But there's good news for the BR4P camp: CNN's Wolf Blitzer will be moderating the debate, not Tim Russert.