Clark, Richardson Court the Netroots
LAS VEGAS -- Good politicians have a nose for two things -- votes and money. Since both (or at the at least the promise of both) are widely available at this weekend's Yearly Kos gathering, it's not surprising that a number of ambitious pols have flocked to Sin City.
Since arriving yesterday, The Fix has met with two potential 2008 Democratic presidential candidates, Retired Gen. Wesley Clark and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Tune in to The Fix next week for detailed coverage of my conversations with the two politicians. For now, though, here's a quick taste from both.
Richardson planned to spend less than 24 hours in Las Vegas -- flying in this morning and out tonight. At a bloggers breakfast that attracted 75 people, Richardson was introduced by the ubiquitous Markos Moulitsas. Later, he planned to appear on a panel on energy issues and make a speech to the Young Democrats.
"I believe bloggers are playing an increasingly important role in 2006 and 2008," said Richardson during a noontime break in his schedule. "They are potential sources of fundraising and political activity."
Richardson traced the rising importance of the blogs to the presidential campaign of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. But he said the "netroots" hasn't reached its full political potential, noting that liberal bloggers' "activism" didn't turn into votes for Dean in 2004. But he predicted that their importance will continue grow. "As a political leader, I want to find a way to deal with them for my political health," he said.
Clark credited the netroots for building momentum for his 2004 campaign and sticking with him following the disappointing result. "These people believed in me," he said. "These people are my friends out here."
Although Clark refused to engage in speculation about 2008, he made clear that he was energized by his first run for office. "People like my ideas," Clark said, noting -- rightly -- that he has an extremely active Internet community, which is built around his Secure America political action committee.
Clark, who appeared on a science panel earlier today, certainly sounded like a presidential candidate. "People want a government of substance that stands for something," he said.
Other potential 2008 Democratic presidential candidates also have a presence at the conference. Ex-Virginia Gov. Mark Warner is set to deliver a speech tomorrow (after throwing a party tonight at the Stratosphere hotel/casino), while Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack will sit on a panel on education tomorrow. Sen. Russ Feingold (Wisc.) is sponsoring a booth in the exhibit hall.
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