Don’t underestimate Bill Richardson

We met Bill Richardson almost twenty years ago when we handed him a check from the Morgan Stanley PAC and had a pleasant dinner with him. We only recall how hard-working he appeared to be then. Now he has shown himself to be very savvy (via John Fund):

On Friday Bill Richardson, the nation’s only Hispanic governor, declared a “state of emergency” in four New Mexico border counties due to “a chaotic situation involving illegal alien smuggling and illegal drug shipments.” His office has pledged $1.5 million for stepped-up law enforcement and also asked Chris Simcox, the president of the volunteer border patrol group Minutemen, for a meeting. Mr. Richardson, a man who wears his ambition for national office on his sleeve, has apparently decided he has to reposition himself on border issues.

He’s not the only Democrat to do so. Sen. Hillary Clinton made headlines when she embraced high-tech measures to control the border with Mexico and fines for employers who hire illegal aliens. “Democrats clearly sense frustration on immigration among Bush’s base voters and are trying to outflank him rhetorically on the right,” says Martha Montelongo, a talk-show hostess in California.

President Bush is vulnerable on immigration. This House Republicans bluntly told him that his proposal to admit guest workers would be dead on arrival unless accompanied by more border enforcement. “All my constituent town meetings want to talk about is immigration and why Washington is still spending so much money,” Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas told me. Indeed, 17 of the 37 GOP House and Senate members who responded to a National Journal survey last month identified immigration as the issue “most on the minds” of their constituents. One Republican identified immigration as the issue on which “the mismatch between the federal government’s inaction and the realities at home is the greatest.”

If the Democratic Party can figure out how to get beyond the multi-culti nonsense it has been emitting for a couple of decades, Richardson is a potential path to electoral success, possibly including the White House. We hear that his personal life is a mess, but America is not about electing John the Baptist. The issue of illegal immigration will sweep any serious opponent to potential victory if a successful terrorist turns out to have come across the southern border. Richardson clearly understands this, and Bush’s appeasement of Vicente Fox is leading an army of no one nowhere. He would be wise to figure this out.

UPDATE

The LA Times has a very flattering profile of Richardson which, taken at face value, makes him appealing to Dems and Reps alike:

In the last 2 1/2 years, he has slashed taxes and won the hearts of New Mexico’s business leaders, shaken up the education establishment and steamrolled his critics on the left and right, all while fashioning the philosophy of what he calls “a new progressive Democrat.”

“It’s basically not center, not left, not right, but basically forward,” Richardson explained one morning over coffee at the governor’s mansion. “What works? What helps people? What solves problems?” As the Democratic Party struggles to find its way nationally, Richardson said the answer lies out West and with the nation’s governors, who “see the daily challenges that people confront in their families, in their business and their communities,” as he told newspaper publishers in the spring in San Francisco. “I come face to face with these people that I serve, and they’re not worried about reforming the tax code or Social Security or some nebulous issue like judicial appointments.”

“We cannot be a Washington, D.C.-based party,” he added. “We tried that and it failed.”

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