Another in my series on 2008 presidential contenders.
When it comes to experience, Bill Richardson is the Democrat with the most diverse resume. Richardson grew up in Mexico City, the son of an American businessman and his Mexican-born wife. He came to the United States to attend high school and stayed on. But his sister Vesta chose to stay in Mexico, where she is a pediatrician. In this respect, Richardson is very much a 21st century American, with family in another country. He is fluent in Spanish. He's also conversant in all levels of government in both domestic policy and foreign affairs. Richardson has been the Governor of New Mexico since 2002; prior to that he served as the Secretary of Energy in the Clinton Administration, a post he assumed in late 1998. Clinton was a fan of Richardson, also tapping him to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 1996. And he came to the UN after 14 years as a Congressman from New Mexico specializing in Interior and Environmental policy issues.
Though he began the 2008 campaign as an intriguing third-tier candidate, Richardson has steadily climbed up the ladder. These days he's a solid second-tier candidate who is well-spoken and organized on the campaign trail, a man with a wealth of policy experience. He calls himself a New Progressive, and he means it, combining a Bill Clinton style centrism and fiscal responsibility with calls for social justice and help for the working families in the United States.
So what we have here is a capable, bi-lingual, multi-cultural candidate with political bona fides. And he's from New Mexico, one of America's newest swing states. Sounds to me like we should just give the dude the Democratic nomination and be done with it.
My 2008 presidential prospects essays have largely been explanations for why particular candidates won't get the nomination. By definition this project will eventually paint me into a corner because someone has to get the nomination for both parties. Bill Richardson is certainly well-qualified and, it would seem, well-suited to the job. But I don't think that he will be the Democratic candidate for the president in 2008. And, frankly, that's kind of a bummer.
My guess is that the juggernaut that is the Clinton and Obama media show will keep Richardson at the edge of this process, not quite the Cinderella of the ball but not the stepsister either. With any luck (and some good strategic advice), Clinton and Obama will realize that Richardson is a serious contender with some really good ideas. They will realize that he has the potential to tap immigrant America, no small resource in the 21st century. This recognition could get him tapped for the Vice Presidency or taken so seriously that he rises above the fray. For now, I'm not sure that we should count Richardson out of the picture yet. And for the sake of our national interest I hope that Clinton and Obama feel this way too.