Sunday, June 05, 2005

NEW HAMPSHIRE BOUND

I'm heading to New England Monday to report on Gov. Bill Richardson's trip to New Hampshire.

Here's what I had in this morning's paper:

As published in the Santa Fe New Mexican
June 5, 2005

As usual, Gov. Bill Richardson has a full schedule this week.

On Tuesday and Wednesday he'll be giving at least four speeches before political, business and cultural groups; doing a couple of radio interviews and appearing at various meetings with Democratic Party officials. He'll be attending breakfast, lunch and dinner events, at least one political cocktail party and conducting at least one news conference.

On Wednesday, Richardson's public itinerary starts at 6:30 a.m. and runs until 9 p.m.

But it's not in New Mexico where these events are happening.

It's New Hampshire.

Politicos and those who watch them know the significance of the Granite State. It's traditionally where the first presidential primary is held.

Richardson, who routinely brushes off questions about his possible candidacy for president in 2008, denies this week's trip has anything to do with the primary.

"He was invited to speak to these groups," Richardson spokesman Billy Sparks said Friday. Sparks said the governor has had long-standing invitations for some of the functions. He added his oft-repeated mantra: "The governor is focused on his re-election campaign."

The Democratic Governors Association - of which Richardson is chair - is paying for the trip, Sparks said.

However, publicity for some of the events mentions that Richardson is a "potential" presidential candidate in 2008.

And serious political observers assume that, despite any official denial, the main purpose of Richardson's trip is to make contacts and build relations with Democratic Party activists and to start getting his name out in front of New Hampshire voters.

"Bill Richardson is something of a blank slate to New Hampshire Democrats at this point, even to the core of activists who are paying attention now," said Dante Scala, a professor at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester.

"He doesn't come with sizable negatives or strong baggage," Scala said in a telephone interview. "I'm sure he'll find a receptive audience here, but people aren't really anticipating his arrival like they are Hillary Clinton."

Although the primary is more than two and a half years in the future, Scala - author of a 2003 book titled Stormy Weather: The New Hampshire Primary and Presidential Politics - said this is a good time for a potential candidate to begin making overtures in New Hampshire "especially for someone like Richardson who is not that well known here," he said. "It's good for someone
to come and get his face known, especially to the core activists who could end up working in his campaign."

Linda Fowler, a political-science professor at Dartmouth College agreed. In an e-mail last week, Fowler wrote, "this is the type of visit for meeting the activists who organize grass-roots primary campaigns in the state. The state legislators and party people will be looking him over, and like every Democrat, they will be looking for someone who can win."

Richardson isn't the only early bird to visit New Hampshire. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and retired Gen. Wesley Clark have trips planned in the near future.

On the Republican side, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Virginia Sen. George Allen, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have paid recent visits. Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska spoke last month at the "Politics and Eggs" breakfast, where Richardson is scheduled to speak Tuesday.

New Hampshire voters are "spoiled," said Larry Sabato, director of the Virginia Center for Politics. "They're going to expect to see more of Bill Richardson than New Mexicans do. They're tough to read, and they don't intend to make their final decision until the last minute. That's why there are so many upsets in New Hampshire."

Fowler agreed: "The state has a tradition lately of boosting relative unknowns in the fall polls before the primary," he said.

What will New Hampshire Democrats want in a candidate?

"Typically they are attracted to a candidate with a message of reform and a willingness to stir the pot," Scala said. "They like new ideas, candidates from outside the Beltway instead of résumé candidates."

Could that be trouble for someone like Richardson, who campaigned on his résumé for governor three years ago? (His employment record includes stints as U.S. Energy secretary, ambassador to the United Nations, a long Congressional career, as well as being governor of New Mexico.)

"He's going to have to find a way to turn his résumé into something like 'a reformer with results,' " Scala said, borrowing a catch phrase used by President Bush in the 2000 election.

Voters there will pay special attention to the issues of education and health care, Scala said.

The fact that Richardson is a westerner shouldn't in itself be a handicap with New Hampshire voters.

"New Hampshire voters are not parochial," said Paul Manuel, also a political-science professor at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

"Westerners have as good a shot of winning the primary as New Englanders. People here pride themselves for being independent thinkers and try to select a candidate best able to lead the country. In that regard, (New Hampshire) Democrats will probably be on the look-out for a candidate who can articulate a clear, perhaps centrist, message, as well as have broad electoral appeal. As is probably the case elsewhere with Democrats, they are tired of losing national elections."

Sabato said Richardson might "intrigue" New Hampshire. "They will give him a close look," he said. "Being Hispanic could be a plus. Some New Hampshire Democrats are sensitive about the fact the state is 98 percent white. This could be their opportunity to go for a minority."

Here are some of the stops on Gov. Bill Richardson's New Hampshire itinerary. (All events in the Manchester area unless otherwise noted):

Tuesday June 7

Politics and Eggs Breakfast
Richardson is the featured speaker at this monthly breakfast sponsored by the New Hampshire Political Library and the New England Council, an economic development group. The breakfast was started in 1996 and, according to some New Hampshire press accounts, has become a "must-stop" for presidential candidates.

The 2005 New Hampshire Latino Summit
Richardson is the luncheon speaker at this conference sponsored by Visión Hispana-NH, an organization for Hispanic professionals, and Vote Now New Hampshire Hispanics. While New England isn't generally thought of as a hotbed of Hispanic culture, event organizers say more than 25,000 Hispanics live in New Hampshire. This is New Hampshire's second annual Latino Summit. Richardson will speak at a press conference immediately before the luncheon.

Meeting with Gov. John Lynch at state Capitol in Concord.
Lynch is a Democrat elected last year and up for re-election next year.

Event for the New Hampshire Democratic Party

This is a meet-and-greet cocktail party at the Common Man restaurant in Concord. However, the common man won't get to attend, as this is a private event. The press isn't invited either.

Wednesday, June 8

The Charlie Sherman Show

Richardson will be interviewed on this early morning radio show on WGIR-AM, a Clear Channel station that broadcasts popular right-wing talk shows by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Breakfast speech for Franco-American citizens at America's Credit Union
Museum

New Hampshire Commissioner for the Department of Cultural Resources Van McLeod organized this event for a group of New Hampshirites in the local business, academic and cultural communities who have ties to Quebec and northeast Canada. Richardson was invited, McLeod said, because he speaks French as well as English and Spanish.

The Exchange, New Hampshire Public Radio in Concord
Richardson is scheduled to be a guest on New Hampshire's only statewide call-in show.


The 10th Annual Grover Cleveland Dinner
Richardson is the featured speaker for this event sponsored by the Carroll County Democratic Party and held at the Grand Summit Hotel in Bartlett, N.H. While President Cleveland was a Democrat, the former mayor of Buffalo, N.Y. originally was from New Jersey, not New Hampshire. But he used to vacation in New Hampshire and his grandson George Cleveland lives there. George Cleveland is scheduled to make an appearance at the dinner impersonating his grandfather.

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