Saturday, January 5, 2008

Four Tickets Out of Iowa, But the Time Is Now For a Powerful Debate Performance From Governor Richardson

Iowa finished something like Obama 38, Edwards 30, Clinton 29, Richardson 2, in terms of percentage of delegates. The "real" vote in the first round had Bill Richardson at more like 7 or 8 percent, but caucus rules which demand that a candidate have at least 15 percent in a given precinct in order to have his/her votes counted made the final Richardson delegate total a lot lower.

So now, with tonight's New Hampshire debate rules in place--limiting the debate (9pm EST tonight on ABC) to the top four finishers in Iowa--this is now a four-person race for the Dem nomination.

But I'm not going to over-spin this for you. I think it's pretty clear that in order to be viewed as a truly viable contender for the nomination, Bill Richardson needs to do a couple things, and do them now: (1) give the debate performance of a lifetime tonight (he can't afford to be just another voice; he has to make himself the clear alternative to the other candidates), and (2) get a sizeable vote total in NH. No, I'm not going to define "sizeable," but right now the latest polls at Real Clear Politics have him at between 4 and 8 percent. Those kinds of numbers won't cut it on Tuesday if "electoral viability" is what we want, and, really, what else is there in a presidential primary?

So it seems to me that a lot of what we've all been fighting for comes down to tonight's debate. If tomorrow's headlines in the Union Leader, the Concord Monitor, and elsewhere are "Richardson Steps Up in Debate As a Clear, Experienced Advocate For Change," then we have ourselves a genuine horse race. If not....well, I'm sure the campaign wants to make Nevada--the first big western vote-- a huge defining win for the Gov, but if he's a single-digit fourth place out of NH, then it's going to be hard to suddenly make Nevada the shining star of a winning campaign for the nomination. On the other hand, with a strong NH performance and BR labeled the new Comeback Kid, suddenly Nevada and elsewhere look a lot more winnable.

So this is no time for moping, just realism. I believe as strongly as ever that Bill Richardson has what it takes to be one hell of a president--experience at so many levels of government; the will to get us out of the Iraq war expeditiously and safely; the steady hand and the gravitas to be a true world leader who restores the United States to a prominent, respected role worldwide; the fiscal conservatism and executive experience with balanced budgets to get our country out of the debt quagmire that it's currently in; and the electability as a Western governor that no other candidate can match in terms of delivering previously red states to the Democrats in November 2008.

But a lot of that potential for success hinges on a strong showing in New Hampshire, and a lot of that strong showing in New Hampshire hinges on a phenomenal (not just good, not just workmanlike) performance at tonight's debate. Come on, Governor. Show New Hampshire all those great qualities--*presidential* qualities--that drew all of us Richardson volunteers to your campaign so many months ago.

Go Bill!

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