Saturday, June 9, 2007

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson may have the longest resume among the 2008 White House hopefuls, but his performances in two debates were not “impressive,” longtime Democratic political strategist Bob Shrum said yesterday.

Mr. Richardson has had a “bad few weeks,” including his recent appearance with Tim Russert on “Meet the Press,” Mr. Shrum told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

“It looked to me like he didn’t prepare for it,” said Mr. Shrum, who has a longtime losing record of advising Democratic candidates.

During the show, Mr. Richardson was on the defensive about his changing position on Iraq, and he and Mr. Russert had tense exchanges over immigration and guns. He also got a lot of negative attention for boasting he could bring fans of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox together, saying he loved both teams. To this, Mr. Russert said: “Not a chance.”

Mr. Shrum, who advised 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry and has drawn the ire of current candidate John Edwards for his tell-all book “No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner,” has retired from political consulting.

But yesterday he offered a broad assessment of the 2008 field, including candidates in the so-called “second-tier” behind the top three Democratic candidates — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and Mr. Edwards of North Carolina.

Mr. Richardson has extensive foreign policy experience that would position him to get more voter attention should one of the front-runners falter, but in two debates he has not been able to articulate his credentials and has received much less talk time than the other candidates.

Though he nabs between 1 percent and 6 percent in national polls, the Richardson campaign cheered news that he reached 10 percent in May in both a Zogby poll of New Hampshire Democrats and a Des Moines Register poll of Iowa caucus-goers.

He is fond of saying it is tough to compete with the “rock stars” who lead the polls.

“I have the record,” Mr. Richardson told Mr. Russert last month, ticking off his service as U.N. ambassador, secretary of energy and governor of New Mexico. “I am trying to get over the fact that this should be an election not necessarily based on celebrity, not necessarily based on who has the most money, which I don’t. But I am competitive. I’ll have enough to get my message over.”

The Richardson campaign did not return calls yesterday seeking a response to Mr. Shrum’s comments.

Mr. Shrum said even though another “second-tier candidate,” Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, was “very impressive” in both debates, political observers should not expect any major changes.

“I don’t think anybody is going break out of that second tier into the first tier,” he said.

He reflected on the last presidential race, calling the October 2004 tape from Osama bin Laden the “most unwelcome backhanded endorsement in political history.” The terrorist leader told the American people in a video released days before the presidential election, “Your security does not lie in the hands of Kerry, Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands.”

“Osama bin Laden actually is pretty smart about American politics,” Mr. Shrum said, adding he figures bin Laden knew his remarks would help President Bush be re-elected and enhance recruitment of terrorists.

Mr. Shrum also had some words of advice for Mrs. Clinton.

“Why in the world couldn’t she say her vote [for the Iraq war] was a mistake?” he asked. “I don’t think the lesson of political history is that you get in trouble for admitting that you made a mistake.”

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