Thursday, June 09, 2005


As published in The The Santa Fe New Mexican
June 9, 2005

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Gov. Bill Richardson’s two-day trip to New Hampshire, which included an overstuffed schedule of speaking engagements, interviews and news conferences, won him praise from many who heard him.

A typical comment came from Eric Drouart, a professor of business administration who heard a Wednesday breakfast speech by the New Mexico Democrat.

“I was impressed by his bipartisan approach to solving the problems of education and security,” Drouart said. “And he was very funny.”

Richardson, who claimed his trip officially had nothing to do with any presidential ambitions, told anyone who asked that he is keeping his options open for the 2008 race. New Hampshire traditionally holds the first presidential primary in the election cycle.

Most of those interviewed seemed to assume that Richardson is running for president. At a Tuesday breakfast event, when Richardson said “I’m not running for anything,” a woman in the audience laughed and said “Sure.”

Many praised Richardson for his sense of humor. “I like the fact he is self-deprecating,” said Chris Williams, vice president of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, who was part of a small audience Wednesday at a breakfast for leaders in the local Franco-American community.

In that talk, Richardson poked fun at his girth and laughed at his attempt to speak French. (Though Richardson said he minored in French in college, his command of that language is far less impressive than his Spanish.)

He also made frequent jokes about his real intentions for 2008.

“I’m not asking you for anything. ... Yet,” he told the Franco-Americans.

Many praised Richardson’s knowledge of issues. “He spent a good deal of time talking about education,” said Jim Brett, president of the New England Council, a business group that sponsored Tuesday’s Politics and Eggs breakfast.

Karina Mera, who heard Richardson at a luncheon for the New Hampshire Latino Summit on Tuesday, said it’s good for young Hispanics to see an example of a successful Hispanic like Richardson. “I really hope he runs for president,” she said.

New Hampshire reporters and radio interviewers who talked to Richardson seemed to be interested in two major topics — the governor’s opinion of recent comments by Democratic National chairman Howard Dean and two small-town New Hampshire police chiefs who recently began arresting undocumented Mexican immigrants on charges of trespassing.

On Dean, Richardson said he stands behind the chairman, though he said Dean made a mistake with his recent controversial remarks about Republicans.

On the police chiefs, Richardson said he didn’t think they should make such arrests, but said he sympathizes with them, saying the situation is the result of a failed federal immigration policy.

One Republican who heard Richardson on Wednesday said she found Richardson charming and full of common sense.

But Georgi Laurin Hippauf, a former vice chair of the New Hampshire GOP, predicted Richardson would not end up on the top of the Democratic ticket.

“If Hillary (Clinton) runs, I can see Gov. Richardson as being the perfect geographical match,” Hippauf said. “She’s from the East and he’s from the West. And he emulates a warmth she doesn’t necessarily have. If I were running the Democratic campaign, that would be my strategy.”

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