Bill Who?

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 23, 2007; 10:28 AM

On paper, Bill Richardson would seem like a reasonably strong Democratic candidate.

He's a governor. Four of the last five men to win the White House have been governors, not Senate bloviation types. But as a former congressman, he understands the Beltway culture.

He's Hispanic. That means he should be getting as much "would be America's first" publicity as the possible first woman president and first black president.

He's a westerner, a region where the Democrats are picking up strength.

He has actual foreign policy experience, as a former U.N. ambassador and global troubleshooter.

And he's kind of an interesting character, not a robo-pol.

But you could be forgiven if you missed the fact that Richardson jumped into the presidential sweepstakes on Sunday. He made the announcement on ABC's "This Week," but a number of papers ran wire stories yesterday.

One reason is that Richardson barely registers in the polls. But the other is that most journalists care only about Hillary and Obama at the moment. That's their script, and they're sticking to it. Which suggests a chicken-and-egg problem not just for Richardson, but for Chris Dodd, Tom Vilsack, Sam Brownback and a slew of others: How do you get media attention when you're nowhere in the polls, even though if you got some media attention, you'd probably rise in the polls, thereby warranting more media attention? (Remember when the press wrote off John Kerry at the end of 2003 because his numbers were so bad?)

Well, it's a long season, and one or another of these also-rans will eventually become the media's flavor of the month.

Here's how the Albuquerque Journal handled the governor's declaration:

"Richardson is only a blip in presidential polling: Some polls have put him at 2 percent and 4 percent. However, many political observers have taken note of his impressive résumé. Richardson represented New Mexico's 3rd Congressional District for 14 years and has served as United States ambassador to the United Nations and secretary of energy under former Democratic President Bill Clinton. He plowed his way into the New Mexico governor's office in 2002, easily winning a second term last year.

"All along, he has built a reputation as an international troubleshooter who has negotiated with dictators and despots from North Korea to Iraq to Sudan. In 1995, for example, Richardson went to Iraq and met with Saddam Hussein to secure the release of two Americans. He traveled to Sudan earlier this month in hopes of cutting a deal that would allow U.N. peacekeepers into that African country. But he came away only with a temporary cease-fire agreement that could be described as shaky at best. Richardson told the Journal his broad experience sets him apart from other Democratic hopefuls.

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