Posted: March 21, 2008 12:02 PM
Richardson Backs Obama Despite Long Ties to Clintons
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary race in January, plans to endorse Sen. Barack Obama for president on Friday.
“I believe he is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime leader that can bring our nation together and restore America’s moral leadership in the world,” Richardson said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press.
Known for his work as an international negotiator, Richardson is a former congressman and served as the energy secretary and United Nations ambassador under President Bill Clinton.
Richardson and President Clinton have stayed friendly and even watched the Super Bowl together this year.
In a statement on his Web site, Richardson offered praise for both the Clintons’ political work but also called for the long and contentious battle for the nomination to end for the good of the Democratic party, CQ reported.
“It is time, however, for Democrats to stop fighting amongst ourselves and to prepare for the tough fight we will face against John McCain in the fall,” Richardson said.
Obama responded to the endorsement in an e-mailed statement saying, “Whether it’s fighting to end the Iraq war or stop the genocide in Darfur or prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists, Gov. Richardson has been a powerful voice on issues of global security, peace and justice, earning five Nobel Peace Prize nominations,” reported Bloomberg News.
Clinton’s camp, meanwhile, played down the impact of the endorsement.
Mark Penn, senior Clinton campaign strategist told reporters on a conference call Friday: “The time he could have been most effective has long since passed. We both have our endorsers but I would not say that this is a significant endorsement.”
Obama’s speech on Tuesday about race in America may have been the deciding factor for Richardson, who has been courted aggressively by both campaigns since ending his own bid for the presidency in January. The New York Times reported that Richardson contacted Obama to tell him how impressed he was by his words and the endorsement was finalized in the next few days.
The move could be a boost for Obama’s popularity in the Hispanic community. The Latino vote helped clinch the win for Clinton in Texas, and she overwhelmingly won among Latinos on Super Tuesday.
The endorsement is also important for Obama because Richardson is a super delegate in a Democratic race that may ultimately be decided by the votes of the 800 Party leaders and officials who hold the title of super delegate.
In several debates running up to the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, Richardson said the other candidates were treating Clinton unfairly and he tried to play the role of peacemaker between Obama and Clinton, setting off rumors that he was angling for a vice presidential bid with either candidate.
Obama and Richardson are set to appear together Friday at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Ore. The Democratic primary there will be held May 20.