Thursday, December 21, 2006

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: CAN THE DENVER DEM CONVENTION BE SALVAGED?

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
December 21, 2006


The Democratic National Committee’s decision this week to wait until the new year to decide where to hold the party’s 2008 national convention is good news for Western Dems who want the convention to be held in Denver.
Bull and Books
So says Mike Stratton, a Colorado political consultant, lobbyist and political adviser for Gov. Bill Richardson.

Stratton, who is on a commission to select the next convention site, said he believes the delay gives Denver a 50/50 chance of being convention host. (He must go to the same bookie as Democratic U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, who gave the same odds recently to The Denver Post.)

“If they would have announced it last week, (the convention site) probably would have been New York,” he said in a telephone interview Wednesday. New York and Denver are the only two cities competing.

Richardson, U.S. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, virtually every elected Democrat in Colorado and other Western Dems are pushing to have the convention in the Mile High City, Stratton said.

An advantage for Bill?: Stratton — who said he hopes to work for Richardson’s campaign if the governor runs for president — said holding the convention in Colorado wouldn’t in itself help Richardson’s chances for the nomination.

“The convention’s probably going to be in late August or early September, so chances are the nomination will be locked up by then,” he said. “If it’s an unresolved situation and there are two or three candidates who don’t have a majority of delegates, then it would be a definite advantage for Governor Richardson. But it’s very unlikely that there wouldn’t have been a decision by that time.”

But, Stratton said, if Richardson is the nominee, there would be a “symbolic” advantage for Richardson to have the convention in a Western state.

“It would be an awfully good venue to kick off the general election,” he said, noting recent Democratic inroads in Western states like Colorado, Arizona and Nevada.

Trouble ahead: Even though he says Denver has even odds of being selected, Stratton said the city still faces some major obstacles in getting the nod.

The first is money. “The cost has gone up dramatically, mainly due to security,” he said.

Although the federal government reimburses about half the security cost for cities hosting political conventions, that check usually is in the proverbial mail for several months, Stratton said. So the city has to pay upfront costs, which run into tens of millions of dollars. There’s some doubt whether Denver can pull that off. “New York has a decided advantage in this area,” he said.

And then there’s the union problem.

Jim Taylor, head of Denver’s stagehand union, this week refused to sign a pledge not to strike during the convention.

Denver’s Pepsi Center, a large basketball and hockey arena, is owned by Denver Nuggets/Colorado Avalanche owner Stan Kroenke. The facility, which would serve as the convention venue, isn’t unionized.

Taylor has strong feelings about the Pepsi Center being anti-union. He’ll stand up to the bosses, even The Boss. According to the Denver Post, he picketed a Bruce Springsteen concert there a few years ago.

The DNC’s delay in announcing the convention city, it is hoped, will give the Democrats and the stagehands union time to work something out, Stratton said.

A happy, smiley guy: The latest national publication to weigh in on our governor’s presidential possibilities is the conservative National Review Online. Political editor Jonathan Martin goes through the litany of Richardson attributes — all the government posts he’s held, the Hispanic heritage, the boots ‘n’ bolos.


But the story isn’t a puff piece.

“(Richardson’s) style is why, in part, he’s dismissed by many observers,” Martin wrote. “Like another governor from the southwest who sought the presidency, Richardson is seen as being immature and unserious. As with President Bush, Richardson has an endless supply of charm and a politician’s preternatural gift for how to work a room and recall a face. But also like Bush, Richardson’s one-on-one abilities are diminished by his inability to mask, for example, showing disinterest when he isn’t interested.”

He quotes political analyst Stuart Rothenberg’s reference to Richardson’s “frat guy persona” and Hotline’s Chuck Todd, who said Richardson isn’t listed in the upper echelon of presidential contenders because “this Gov. Bill may resemble another Gov. Bill too much.”

Using a word frequently employed by pundits to describe Richardson, Martin asked the governor’s political jeffe Dave Contarino about the charge that Richardson is “undisciplined.” If that means “being a smiling, happy guy,” Contarino said, “we plead guilty.”

Speaking of conservative media: Just two weeks ago, all the governor’s men were blasting Fox News for taking Richardson’s comments about running for president “out of context.” They said he wasn’t really declaring his intention to run when, in an interview that aired Dec. 7, Richardson said, “I am running as an American who is proud to be Hispanic.”

But the guv made nice this week on Fox’s Your World with Neil Cavuto.

“Carl Cameron is a very good reporter,” he told Cavuto, referring to the reporter who conducted the original interview. “And I unfortunately made the mistake of answering a hypothetical question instead of saying ‘should I run, I will do this.’ And I didn’t do that, so there was all this confusion. And I’m not too upset about it. ... I think Carl Cameron and Fox News were doing their job, so I’m not upset at them. But it did cause a ruckus.”

Richardson reiterated he plans to announce a decision next month.

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