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Tracking the Richardson buzz

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March 2, 2007

By KATE NASH

SANTA FE, N.M. — He rules the headlines here.

And Gov. Bill Richardson is starting to get ink in nearby states like Texas, Colorado, Nevada.

So how well does Richardson the Democratic presidential candidate come off in the rest of the nation?

The Albuquerque Tribune checked in with professors, bloggers and reporters in other parts of the country to see what kind of buzz he’s created, how his TV skills rate, what techies think of his Web site, what endorsements he might receive, and what his chances of raising enough money to win might be.

So far, our self-described underdog governor doesn’t appear to be generating much chatter elsewhere.

Democratic U.S. Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton are hogging the spotlight.

“Richardson is invisible in Florida with Obama and Clinton in the state several times already with max publicity,” says Roger Handberg, chairman of the political-science department at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Although Richardson is somewhat known in the Sunshine State for one thing — and it doesn’t play well with everyone.

“There are clearly mixed emotions about his pushing a state spaceport, which further undercuts Florida’s already shaky space future,” Handberg said.

Last weekend, Richardson visited Florida for the first time since he launched his presidential campaign a month ago.

Richardson is expected to soon visit South Carolina, where he doesn’t seem to be doing much better buzz-wise.

“I don’t think he appears on the radar screen here in South Carolina, as far as I can tell,” Colin Pearce, a professor at the University of South Carolina in Beaufort, wrote in an e-mail.

“It’s all Hillary as far as the Democrats are concerned, thus far, I would say.”

That could change. Richardson in late February named two staffers from South Carolina to his campaign.

What about Montana? The governor has little name recognition beyond university circles in the Treasure State, but Jim Lopach, a political-science professor at the University of Montana in Missoula, says Richardson seems like a regular guy.

“He is probably best-known for being a quasi-minority candidate, a freelancer in diplomacy and the Clinton aide who tried to get Monica Lewinsky a job outside of Washington.”

Lopach rates Richardson a four out of five — with five being the best — for his ability to appear genuine.

“He seems to be quite strong in his interactions with media and voters,” he said. “He appears to be a genuine and regular guy.”

Reason magazine’s David Weigel said Richardson is at the top of the second tier of candidates.

“He doesn’t make headlines nationally, in part because he’s promised not to attack other candidates,” Weigel, an associate editor and political columnist, wrote via e-mail. “If he proposed a global-warming fix the same day Obama had a $2 million fund-raiser, Richardson would be bumped to the back pages.”

The Tribune asked a few theater professors to critique a video posted on Richardson’s Web site. The video, called “New Mexico’s Comeback,” is meant to highlight his achievements as governor.

Philip Auslander, who teaches performance studies at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, said Richardson needs to relax.

“If I were Bill Richardson’s acting coach, my main advice to him would be, ‘Loosen up.’ It is common in the theater for directors to say to actors: ‘Have fun with it.’ That is what Richardson needs to do — to seem more engaged, more personable, more as if he’s enjoying himself.”

Richardson speaks clearly in the ad, Auslander said, but is monotone and expressionless.

“He comes off as serious, but also stiff and not very personable,” Auslander said. “To his credit, however, he doesn’t seem overly scripted.”

Another ad that Richardson filmed, this one for his second gubernatorial race in 2006, played well in Wisconsin, said Oliver Kiefer, the fund-raising chairman for the College Democrats in Madison.

“I wouldn’t call him a household name, but I’d put him in the tier right below that. His commercial, the Old West-style one, did get a few people talking,” Kiefer wrote.

The commercial featured the governor wearing cowboy boots and spurs, riding his horse and bellying up to the bar for milk.

Richardson’s two-person Web team has some fans.

“With regard to Richardson’s present competition, I definitely see his Web site as the winner, at least in the Democratic realm,” said Kingsley Anderson, owner of Webport Design in Albuquerque.

“While BarackObama.com has many of the networking links Richardson does, the graphics are not as rich, lacking depth and color,” he said. “VoteHillary.org lacks many of the professional qualities of either (Richardson’s or Obama’s) site.”

And while Richardson’s site, www.richardsonforpresident.com, has patriotic colors, it needs a way to syndicate or automatically send updates to those who sign up so people can get the latest dish on the campaign, Anderson said.

(Contact Kate Nash of The Tribune in Albuquerque, N.M., at www.abqtrib.com.)

4 Responses to Tracking the Richardson buzz

  1. ms

    March 2, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    Although I’ve always been a Richardson fan, I was surprised to see him being interviewed by Chris Matthews and experiencing facial ticks–I think they were his mouth. Maybe he was just imitating Chris.

  2. Lexie Homewood

    March 2, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    I think his qualifications are great. But he just doesn’t have the rock star status of Obama, nor the name recognition and money of Hillary. I really like the guy. BUt then my favorite is Joe Biden, and I doubt that he has much of a chance either.

    I do wish Hillary would just go away, but that ain’t gonna happen, either.

  3. […] Richardson is having problems generating buzz outside the southwest, sometimes for obvious reasons, other times for hidden ones. […]

  4. Wiliam

    March 2, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Gov Richardson has accomplished many benefical improvements in New Mexico and should be considered a very serious candidate for the office of president of United States. He is a great governor and would be a great president.Don’t knock him if you don’t know him and his stance on issues state and national.