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The courtship of an endorsement

There are political endorsements -- and then there’s what goes on behind political endorsements. And, courtesy of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s endorsement Friday of Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, we got a little peek into that process.

First of all, there’s constant endorsee-wooing. In Richardson’s case, that included former President Clinton inviting himself over to watch the Super Bowl. The two talked and munched on chips. Bill reminded Bill about the important jobs he’d given him during his administration and how important the Latino governor’s endorsement would be for Hillary.

“I was about to do it,” Richardson said on MSNBC. “He’s very persuasive.”

Clinton left thinking he’d at least prevented Richardson from endorsing Obama.

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But Richardson started leaning toward Obama. Less than two weeks ago, he told Obama he was 99% with him. But he held back, and the delay caused worry in the Obama campaign. Richardson said it was the Illinois senator’s speech on race last week that clinched it for him.

What we didn’t see or hear was Richardson’s Thursday night phone call to the New York senator to inform her she was not his choice. “It was a painful conversation for me that I had with Sen. Clinton last night,” Richardson told CNN’s John King on Friday.

King bored in, saying he’d heard from others that such conversations with the Clintons could be downright unpleasant. “Well,” Richardson said, “let’s say it was a difficult conversation.”

On Friday, the Clinton campaign, which earlier had so badly wanted Richardson’s OK, was putting out the word through strategist Mark Penn that Richardson’s endorsement was too late to matter much to anyone.

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Richardson said that’s “typical of many of the people in that campaign,” adding: “I still have enormous respect for Sen. Clinton.”

Back on CNN, King asked the obligatory question about the No. 2 spot on the ticket. And Richardson said: “Well, you know, John, I love being governor of New Mexico and growing my beard and, you know, riding my horse. So I’m going to work very hard for him to get elected.”

Translation: I’d accept in a heartbeat.

Obama figured O.J. did it

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In his much-publicized and hashed-over speech on race relations last week, Barack Obama made a brief reference to the notorious O.J. Simpson murder trial, citing it as an example of the predilection to “tackle race only as spectacle.”

Less noticed was the elaboration he provided in an interview later on ABC’s “Nightline” on the question that once so divided many whites and blacks: Did Simpson butcher his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her wrong-place-wrong-time friend Ron Goldman?

“You remember when, during the O.J. trial, . . . black and white culture just had these completely opposite reactions and nobody understood it? I’m somebody who was pretty clear that O.J. was guilty,” Obama said.

Giuliani hands out checks

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This could be Rudy Giuliani’s own brand of national economic stimulus.

Unwinding his once-promising campaign, the onetime Republican front-runner has been handing out refund checks amounting to $3.16 million in February alone to more than 1,400 of his high-end presidential campaign donors.

In a campaign finance filing, Giuliani discloses that he raised a total of $64.94 million and spent $56.95 million on the ill-fated candidacy.

For that nearly $57 million, Giuliani won just one delegate, in Nevada.

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In his filing with the Federal Election Commission, Giuliani discloses that he still has $3.1 million in debt, including $151,000 owed to Giuliani Security, which he founded, and $65,000 to Giuliani Partners, another of his enterprises.

But his report also shows that he’s returning many of his contributors’ donations, most of them in $2,300 chunks to more than 1,400 donors.

Paul campaign goes on

Apparently, cadres of Paulunteers read the Missouri Republican rule book and have burrowed into the party structure from the inside at the recent county caucus meetings.

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Paul supporters swarmed meetings in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and some rural counties and, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch put it, “snagged roughly a third of the 2,137 state Republican delegates.”

All of which would be yawn-inducing except that those delegates will determine the state GOP platform this spring and help select the delegates to the national convention in St. Paul, Minn., in September.

Also in the caucuses, the newspaper said, the Paulistas “won approval for some of their man’s key positions, including resolutions for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and against the federal Patriot Act and warrantless wiretaps.”

The biggest hit: a resolution to be taken up at the state party meeting this spring to repeal the rule that all of Missouri’s 58 delegates go to the primary winner, McCain.

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Rev. Wright hits the road

For years, it seems, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright has made periodic preaching excursions from his home base in Chicago to Tampa, Fla.

(Anyone familiar with the Windy City’s weather -- especially its winter and ever-distant spring -- can readily understand the allure of such trips.)

Wright, we’ve learned, annually draws big crowds to the sermons he delivers at two predominantly black churches in the Tampa area. And this week, he’ll be the prime attraction at a revival Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at one of those places of worship.

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Do you think his appearances might generate a bit more news coverage than usual?

The St. Petersburg Times’ story on Wright’s impending visit includes many admiring comments from those who have known him over the years.

Similarly, a Los Angeles Times article last week noted that while Wright caused headaches for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign with incendiary statements made from his Chicago perch, he “also provided uplift. He affirmed the resiliency of the black family, invited married couples in the pews to stand and be cheered, and eventually focused on how to save failing relationships.”

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Times staff writer Scott Martelle contributed to this report.

Excerpted from The Times’ political blog, Top of the Ticket, at www.latimes.com/topoftheticket.


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