Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Campaigns and the Media

It appears that Bill Richardson will drop out of the campaign. I've made no secret that, in my opinion, Bill Richardson would be the best person to have as President out of the current crop of candidates. His resume is about as impressive as you could get, and in my own conversations with him (before he was a candidate) I have been impressed by his diverse fund of knowledge. But the reality of modern presidential politics also includes marketability. And Bill never had that.

MERRIMACK, N.H. - New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson ended his campaign for the presidency Wednesday after twin fourth-place finishes that showed his impressive credentials could not compete with his rivals' star power.

Richardson planned to announce the decision Thursday, according to two people close to the governor with knowledge of the decision. They spoke on a condition of anonymity in advance of the governor's announcement.

Richardson had one of the most wide-ranging resumes of any candidate ever to run for the presidency, bringing experience from his time in Congress, President Clinton's Cabinet, in the New Mexico statehouse as well as his unique role as a freelance diplomat. As a Hispanic, he added to the unprecedented diversity in the Democratic field that also included a black and a woman.

But unlike Mike Huckabee, who pulled off that feat on the Republican side, Richardson never really put it together. He took a much stronger anti-war stand on Iraq than his rivals, but he was also prone to some positions well to the right of the others, like his support for a constitutional amendment requiring a federal budget. His public performances were uneven at best. After numerous lackluster debate performances and some dreadful television appearances--like the time on Meet the Press when he pandered too much claiming to a fan of both the Red Sox AND the Yankees--he had seemingly campaigned himself out of contention for even the VP slot.

Richardson had by far the most impressive resume of anyone in the race. But people don't vote for resumes, and he never came up with a compelling enough reason for people to vote for him instead of one of the big three. After last night's performance, where he received only 5% of the vote, his fate was sealed.

I'm sorry to see him leave the race, but he really never stood a chance. As much as a political junkie and policy wonk as I am, I grimaced at his debate performances. He was running for VP at best, or secretary of state (which he still might get). Our current media system favors style over substance, and Clinton, Obama, and Edwards all have style. We live in a society where the President is a "star" (although how shrub got the role is beyond me) and the 30 second "sound bite" is more important than the actual policy. If experience and policy mattered to the electorate, we'd be looking at a race between Biden, Dodd, and Richardson, but none of the three look good on TV.
Oh well, my favorite choice for President hasn't been a viable candidate during my lifetime. I'm used to trying to elect a "acceptable" candidate (Carter, Clinton, Gore, Kerry), rather than the one who I thought would be the best President.
Added: Some sources are denying the story, but I don't have a link yet.


Jess Wundrun said...

I am truly perplexed by this idea of "Experience". Hillary has "experience" like George W. Bush would be fun to have a beer with.

I like Richardson, I hope he gets a big spot in the Obama administration. :P

FranIAm said...

GREAT post and I agree that substance doesn't carry the weight it should.

Bill has really great credentials. It may work out that he is really valuable as a VP or SoS which I think would even be better.