Opinion: Breaking News: Barack Obama gets Bill Richardson nod

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After weeks of personal pondering and not a little anguish, New Mexico’s Gov. Bill Richardson has decided to endorse Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The official endorsement will come later today in Portland, Ore., according to the Associated Press.

Richardson, who ran against both of the surviving Democratic candidates, Illinois Sen. Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, is the nation’s only Latino governor. He gave up his own run for the White House on Jan. 10 after never really gaining much traction -- he garnered barely 2% of the caucus votes in Iowa -- amid suspicions he was really auditioning as a possible vice presidential nominee for the party’s eventual winner.


That suspicion might still be there. Richardson and the less-experienced Obama could make a good fit since such a combo brings a Latino link to the nation’s fastest-growing population sector, a managerial link both as a Cabinet secretary and a state chief executive, diplomatic experience as a troubleshooter and U.N. ambassador and, especially, someone not recently connected to Washington and from the once-staunchly Republican Rocky Mountain corridor.

After a series of initial stumbles, Richardson did show some flash during a summer debate in Des Moines when he referred to both Clinton and Obama. ‘You know,’ he said with a smile, ‘I think that Sen. Obama does represent change. Sen. Clinton has experience. Change and experience: With me, you get both.’

Had it come earlier, the governor’s endorsement could have helped Obama stem Clinton’s victories in Texas and California, where she showed real strength in Latino communities. In fact, she won the Democratic primary in Richardson’s home state with a 2-to-1 majority among Latinos.

Richardson, who is a Democratic superdelegate, gave a subtle hint to his...

choice 10 days ago, as reported in The Ticket. At a UCLA forum, he was asked which Democratic candidate could best handle today’s challenges.

‘I’m truly conflicted,’ Richardson said. ‘I’m torn. I see ... a lot of loyalty I owe President Clinton. He made me U.N. ambassador. He made me secretary of Energy. He’s treated me extremely well. But you know what? I paid him back. Because I served well.’ Richardson described the former first lady as ‘enormously capable ... but I did run against her.’

He also ran against Obama, of course. But in a prepared statement he’ll release today, Richardson will say:

‘I believe he is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime leader that can bring our nation together and restore America’s moral leadership in the world,’ the Associated Press reported.

Richardson will also say: ‘There is no doubt in my mind that Barack Obama has the judgment and courage we need in a commander in chief when our nation’s security is on the line.’

Campaign sources indicate Obama hopes to roll out a series of such endorsements and announcements during the long run-up to the Pennsylvania primary on April 22 to create a sense of momentum. There’s still former Sen. John Edwards out there and, of course, former senator, former vice president and former presidential candidate Al Gore, who’s not always had the closest relationship with his ex-boss’s wife.

Although Obama leads in the popular vote total and in delegates, more recent opinion polls seem to indicate a shift toward Clinton since Obama’s twin losses in the major states of Ohio and Texas, and last week’s furor over his pastor’s anti-white and anti-American sermons.

-- Andrew Malcolm