UPDATE: I went back and cleaned up most the typos here. Also I caught a couple goof-ups. Richardson said we should lean on China to help bring peace to Sudan -- not "leave on China" as I somehow typed. Also Gravel said anybody who voted for the war resolution should be disqualified. I originally said "nobody." Got tripped up on the double negative there.
8:59 PM EDT: It's over. Gonna take a spin to the Spin Room.
8:57 PM EDT: Richardson talks about improving education as his top priority in the first 100 days. Mentions New Mexico went from 49th to 29th under his watch -- possibly an attempt to nullify some of the Meet the Press talk of bad NM statistics.
8:52 PM EDT: Gravel has been far more subdued tonight. He's talking about line-item vetoes. I like it better when he says stuff like the other candidates scare him. He's coming to life a little bit saying Congress got surpluses during Bill Clinton by raiding social security.
8:47 PM EDT: Richardson brags that he's balanced five state budgets. This drives New Mexico reporters nuts! He has to balance the budget according to the state constitution. There's no option.
8:37 PM EDT : I believe the biggest applause line so far tonight was when Hillary said they should quit asking hypothetical questions. Biden is shouting to establish a no-fly zone in Darfur.
Richardson pressed on Olympic boycott. Don't need military action. But now he's going back to his campaign speech about "On the first day I'm president ..."
8:34 PM EDT: Richardson says he wouldn't use force. More UN peacekeepers, Economic sanctions. Need to lean on China. Threaten to boycott Olympics. "America should care about Africa and we don't."
8:32 PM EDT: Darfur. Here's a good Richardson question. But Biden butts in.
8:27 PM EDT: Except for the question about veteran hospitals, most of the New Hampshire citizens asking questions seem to be most concerned about foreign issues -- Iran, Pakistan. Wolf is asking Kucinich whether he'd launch a missile to kill Osama bin Laden. Sounds like a good movie. Kucinich doesn't like assassinations. Obama says he'd kill Osama.
8:22 PM EDT: Hillary has good words for "the type of diplomacy Bill Richardson did for my husband."
8:18 PM EDT: Richardson gives a good clear answer to funding veteran hospitals. Of course this is a pretty apple-pie issue.
8:15 PM EDT: In general Richardson seems more relaxed and a lot less scowly than he did in the South Carolina debate. He hasn't made any major mistakes. His main problem is that his answers seem to revert to campaign rhetoric and meander. He's not alone in this. That's a major sin of many politicians. The second problem is that he just doesn't have enough time to make an impression with all these candidates. These debates (the Republicans too) are reminding me of Santa Fe mayoral election back when we had 16 candidates.
8:10 PM EDT: They're back.
8:05 PM EDT: Break time! I need coffee.
8:00 PM EDT: A change in format is about to come. Audience members will soon start asking questions. But first Richardson is asked if oil companies are gouging. He starts out by saying NM is the clean energy state. He also wants states to have more authority to investigate price fixing. He starts talking about his "Apollo program" for clean energy. Wolf again has to cut him short.
7:54 PM EDT: Richardson says Bill Clinton should be secretary general of the United Nations. He says he'd use Clinton to be Middle East peace envoy. But didn't he say a few weeks ago he wanted James Baker for that role?
7:50 PM EDT: Cynical press dogs laugh openly when Biden says "Nobody asks whether you're gay in those holes." We're turning into Bevis & Butthead! Richardson pipes in. Makes fun of senatorial courtesy. Says he would get hate-crime, civil-union laws.
7:47 PM EDT: Hillary won't say her husband's "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy was a mistake. "It was a transitional policy." She quotes Barry Goldwater! "You don't have to be straight to shoot straight."
7:42 PM EDT: Richardson -- in New Mexico we insured every child. Got rid of junk food in the schools. Junk food in the schools? Not quite on topic. Wolf cuts him short.
7:39 PM EDT: Edwards talks about raising taxes to fund national healthcare. But he's not saying whether Richardson and Hillary are being "dishonest" for saying no tax increases are not needed.
7:35 PM EDT: Raise your hand if English should be the official language of U.S. Gravel is the only one. Obama says the question is designed to divide us. Hillary is answering now. Richardson I know would love to answer this but he can't get a word in edgewise.
7:32 PM EDT: Richardson asked about immigration, why he supports path to citizenship. He meanders a little at first. Why isn't this amnesty? Because Richardson says, it sets standards. You don't immediately get amnesty, citizenship. It takes about 13 years. But he says it separates families. Wolf is trying to cut him short.
7:27 PM EDT: Gravel says anybody who voted for the resolution should be disqualified from being president. They made a political decision and showed a lack of moral judgment. Hillary says if she knew then what she knows now ...
7:25 PM EDT: Hillary's talking again about her "sincere" vote for the war in 2002. Tries to wiggle out of answering question whether she regrets not reading the National Intelligence Assessment. Says she was fully briefed. So does Edwards. But he says he was wrong to vote for the war resolution.
7:21 PM EDT Kucinich points out that Iraq is now the Dem's war.
7:19 PM EDT: Mike Gravel points out that the Democrats in Congress supported the original war resolution.
7:18 PM EDT: Richardson on withdrawal from Iraq leading to genocide. There is a fundamental difference in his position and the others. Wolf tried to lead him back to the genocide question. He says he'd keep troops in Kuwait and move them to Afghanistan.
7:16 PM EDT : More than 15 minutes through debate and Richardson hasn't been called on.
7:14 PM EDT: Obama and Edwards getting down. Edwards criticizes Obama's hesitancy over recent vote. Obama says Edwards is a Johnny come lately to the anti-war position. Hillary reminds everyone it's Bush's war.
7:11 PM EDT: Hillary won't criticize Biden for voting for the war funding. She went on to attack the Republicans who support the war and President Bush. Sounds like she's looking ahead of the Democatic primaries.
7:03 PM EDT: "I'm Bill Richardson, the proud governor of New Mexico."
7:02 PM EDT: Wolf Blitzer says they're going to prevent candidates from getting off topic. Good luck!
6:58 PM EDT: Bad sign. Something seems to be wrong with the sound in the media room. If it ain't fixed pretty quick there's going to be hundreds of angry reporters. Someone came by and said "they're working on it." Hope he's right
6:06 PM EDT As you can see, I'm not taking or posting many photos at this point. Nothing much exciting to see in the media room.
But I did get a few yesterday, so check them out over at my FLICKR site.
5:49 PM EDT: Those wascally Wepublicans. On a table just outside the media room are a bunch of unflattering profiles of the Democratic candidates from the Republican National Committee.
These have been updated since the Carson City forum, when they wrote similar studies of the Dem contenders.
For the governor of New Mexico, the sheet is titled "Meet Bill Richardson (D-NM): A Self-Serving Washington Insider With a Controversial Record." (Back in February he was merely a "self-promoting" Washington Insider, etc.)
The new Richardson sheet concentrates on recent contradictions over Iraq, immigration, the Red Sox/Yankee rivalry, etc. (I just had lunch with a rabid Red Sox fan. I tell you, they take that stuff seriously up here.)
These GOP "Meet the Candidates" efforts is just typical partisan politics. I'm sure Richardson and the other candidates aren't too worried. However the one on Richardson did hit below the belt in one area:
They criticized his Bill Richardson salsa at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. I'd argue that anything that spreads New Mexico salsa to other parts of the country is a good thing. I'm still sore that the Secret Service confiscated mine at the convention. (CLICK HERE and scroll down toward the bottom of the post)
5:09 PM EDT
4:30 PM EDT: I'm here in the media room for the debate at Saint Anselm College. We're in a gym next door to the main event.
The last one of these dog and cattle shows I personally attended was the one in Carson City, Nev. last February. So far -- two-and-a-half hours before the debate even starts, it's easy to tell that things have intensified since then.
First of all at least a few of the candidates have gobs of supporters out in force. Joe Biden is winning the sign wars, at least on the approach from NH 114. However, driving around the neighborhood with a local friend a couple of hours ago we found pockets of Edwards supporters and one small area where several yards had Richardson signs.
As I was turning into the media parking lot (a huge area of beautiful green grass, being slowly trampled by hundreds of press-dog vehicles) a group of Obama supporters started feverishly chanting their candidate's name at me. later, walking through the rain to the press center, I heard in the distance a group of people happily chirping out the letters "H-I-L-L-A-R-Y"
Then, unlike the Carson City event, there's actual security here, complete with metal detectors. Just my luck that I wore a metal bolo tie.
I haven't done a formal count, but there seems to be about twice as many spaces for journalists than there was in Nevada. There are assigned spots for all of us and no chart or anything to help a lonely reporter find his spot. I'd assumed they'd stick the smaller publications in the back, so I started looking there. However, after searching several rows, I learned they'd actually put me somewhere north of the middle. I'm right between reporters from Newsweek and U.S. News & World report.
Now that I'm settled in, nothing's going to happen for a few hours. But keep refreshing that browser