Richardson Explains His Comment on Iowa

The Associated Press
Tuesday, September 4, 2007; 4:39 PM

OSCEOLA, Iowa -- Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richardson said Tuesday that his comment about it being God's will that Iowa votes first was off-the-cuff as he defended the state's primacy in the nomination process.

Campaigning in south-central Iowa, the New Mexico governor faced questions about his comment Monday in which he suggested that there was a more serious reason for Iowa to lead the nomination process with caucuses.

"Iowa, for good reason, for constitutional reasons, for reasons related to the Lord, should be the first caucus and primary," he said Monday. "And I want you to know who was the first candidate to sign a pledge not to campaign anywhere if they got ahead of Iowa. It was Bill Richardson."

The Des Moines Register reported on Richardson's comments to the Northwest Iowa Labor Council Picnic in Sioux City.

Asked about it Tuesday, Richardson said: "Look, that was an off-the-cuff comment where I said Iowa and New Hampshire should be first."

When pressed further, he said Iowa should launch the primary calendar because "it's a tradition in American politics that has worked."

"Iowa scrutinizes candidates through a grass-roots state. They are very good at winnowing down candidates," he said. "They don't listen to national polls. Iowa voters are very independent and issue-oriented."

During Tuesday's stop in Osceola, Iowa, Richardson said he was troubled by the frequent bickering between leading candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama.

"I think it's important to stay positive in this campaign," he told about 100 people gathered at a co-op winery. "... Let's get into the issues important to the American people."

Much has been made of the possibility of electing the first female or black president, but Richardson said that he didn't plan to put more emphasis on his Hispanic heritage.

"I don't like to be typecast. I'm very proud to be Hispanic, but if I used my mother's maiden name (Lopez-Collada), you know it would be so obvious that I'm trying to just do it for votes," he said. "I'm after everybody, not just Hispanics."

Richardson said he's up against tough competition at many campaign stops in early states, including the Labor Day appearance of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

"I'm campaigning against one formidable Clinton _ now I'm facing two formidable Clintons," he said.


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