Richardson Says He's Best at
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson still regrets his rather tortured answer to a question at a presidential candidate forum hosted by Human Rights Campaign last month. "Did you ever make a mistake?" he asked Washington Post reporters and editors during an interview Wednesday.
Richardson had stumbled over whether he believes homosexuality was biological or a matter of choice. He said "choice" and when given a chance to clarify his answer failed to do so, to the dismay of the predominantly gay audience.
"I made a mistake," he repeated. "I was tired. Did you ever fly all night?"
The Democratic candidate pointed to his record in New Mexico and as a congressman as proof of his commitment to gay rights. "How many other candidates have taken those position [and] actually done something?" he said.
Richardson said that during the forum his first impulse was that he was being thrown a trick question and that he seized on the word "choice" to guide him without thinking. "The word 'choice' is a big plus for Democrats."
The episode raised another question about whether the current nominating process asks too much of the candidates, forcing them into too many forums and to spend much of their time balancing fundraising requirements with the demands of voters in early states.
Richardson said the first thing he would do to reform the process is to put all candidates on a level playing field financially.
"I spend half of my time raising money -- 50 percent in four states campaigning, 50 percent out raising money," he said. "I don't have the machines of these other candidates. I've got to go myself, give a speech, collect this here, here, here, here."
He also called on party leaders to bring the nominating calendar under control, noting that candidates still don't know the dates or order of the first four contests next year. "Right now there's chaos."
Richardson has seen his poll numbers rise to low double-digits in Iowa and New Hampshire. He said his path to the nomination hinges on defeating one of the three top candidates -- Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards -- in Iowa and then using that as a "slingshot" in New Hampshire and Nevada, the next two states on the calendar.
He said that unlike Clinton and Obama, he is doing true grass-roots campaigning in Iowa. "I do 10 house parties, 10 town meetings, a 100 people each a day when I'm there," he said "You get the Clintons and Obamas there, they do a rally -- a thousand people -- and they're gone. The grass-roots approach in Iowa and New Hampshire works -- and I'm doing that."
Richardson said he believes the Hispanic vote will swing even more strongly in the direction of the Democrats in 2008 because of what he called a "colossal error" by the Republicans on immigration..
He was asked about the recent Democratic debate hosted by Univision, in which he complained about not being able to speak Spanish. Did he really not know that the hosts had decided to hold the debate in English, with Spanish translation for the audience? "I was trying to make a point," he said. "They changed the ground rules because I suspect Obama and Clinton and others said, why are you going to give Richardson and Dodd some juice. They changed the format and I [complained] about it."
Shortly before the start of the debate, he said, Univision executives came to him and quietly asked whether he was actually going to speak Spanish. "I didn't answer the question," he said. "I made my point. I find it incongruous for the largest Hispanic chain in America to impose an English-only rule."
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