Richardson sounds Vilsack themes

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has landed in Iowa for two-days worth of meet-and-greets with Democratic party activists in central Iowa.  During taping of the Iowa Public Teleivison program "Iowa Press" which airs this evening, Richardson’s rhetoric sounded a lot like what former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack was rhetorically throwing around during his three-month presidential campaign.  (Richardson also talks about himself in the third person — just like Bob Dole, the Republican winner of Iowa’s 1988 and 1996 Caucuses.)

Here’s some transcript material from Richardson’s Iowa Press appearance:

Henderson:  "Governor, why should Iowa Caucus-goers vote for you?"

Richardson:  "Because I believe I can bring this country together.  Secondly, because I believe I have experience, especially in foreign policy.  I know how we can get out of Iraq.  I know how to restore America’s international standing.  I’m a governor. I have CEO experience.  The biggest problem in America is the squeeze on America’s middle class.  I’ve increased access to health care in New Mexico.  I’ve made schools better.  I’ve cut taxes for the middle class.  I believe that I’m the candidate with the best experience.  I also believe that I’m the candidate that with my diplomatic experience bringing countries together, rescuing hostages, I could restore America’s international credibility."

Henderson:  "For those Iowans who may be meeting you for the first time on this broadcast, who is Bill Richardson?  What is it about you that you would like them to know?"

Richardson:  "That Bill Richardson’s not a rock star. That Bill Richardson is a grassroots candidate.  I’m not going to have the resources of the other candidates.  That I’m a candidate who believes very strongly that America desperately needs some leadership, not just internationally but that is somebody that values the scrutiny that Iowans give their presdiential candidates.  I like the fact that Iowa likes underdogs.  I like the fact that Iowans want to see candidates face-to-face in house parties. I’m going to be coming here not with big rallies in gyms.  I’m staying for two days.  I’m going all around the state.  I know I’m starting early, so the last message I want to give Iowans is keep your powder dry.  Wait ’til you get a chance to talk to me and see what I’m about, that I care deeply about doing well here in Iowa because this is the kind of state that I can do well in because you’re a grassroots state that scrutinizes candidates.  That’s what I want."

Richardson launched into a discussion of the war in Iraq and other world hot spots.  In terms of doemstic policy, Richardson said he liked the health care initiatives in Massachusetts and California; believes a fence along the US/Mexico border is a "dumb idea" and Richardson said he was not a Democrat who would raise taxes. 

Toward the end of the program, Des Moines Register columnist David Yepsen asked Richardson about Vilsack.

Yepsen:  "One of the reasons (Vilsack) got out is he ran out of money.  Are you, as a governor, going to have the same problem that Tom Vilsack confronted which is you can’t raise money at the same rate that senators can?"

Richardson:  "The voters decide this race.  There’s this emphasis out of Washington, DC that the way you become president is you raise a lot of money or you’re a rock star.  I’m neither, but I’m going to be respectable in raising money and I’m going to go to the people directly on issues.  Governor Vilsack was a great governor.  He’s also a national leader among govenrors.  You know, he had difficulty raising money.  It is hard.  In my case, I believe I’m going to respectable.  I was chair of the National Governors.  I’ve been around a while so I know people around the country but this election is not going to be decided about how much money you raise or whether you’re going to come in for a gym appearance and leave.  I’m here for two days.  I want Iowans to scrutinize me, to talk about what I stand for.  I believe I can bring this country together and ultimately Iowa always makes the right choice."

Henderson:  "What role do you think Hispanic voters will have nationwide in the next election and are these enough Latino voters in Iowa to buoy you in the Iowa Caucuses?"

Richardson:  "Well, there are Latino voters here.  It’s a community that’s really growing and I’m going to try to really go after them but I’m not running as a Latino candidate.  I’m very proud to be Latino, Hispanic.  I’m very proud that my mother, who I called the other day, I’m very proud of this.  She said;  ‘You’re running for president?’  ‘Yes, mother.’  ‘President of what?’  She did ask me that.  She kind of brought me down but I just believe that it is an assett because I’m proud of it ’cause Hispanics are growing in every part of the country.  You know, it could be in a general election that somebody could say ‘Well, you know, he’s Hispanic so he’s going to open up the borders.’  Hopefully that argument, that wedge issue, won’t stick."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.