|By Candy Crowley, CNN Washington Bureau|
SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO (CNN) -- Bill Richardson is on a diet, and he hates it.
He's lost about 30 pounds so far, but laments, "I am kind of miserable succeeding." It is classic Richardson, disarming and oh-so-very-normal, a confession delivered from the grandeur of the New Mexico Governor's Mansion overlooking Santa Fe.
The Democrat is widely expected to announce his full-fledged candidacy for president by the end of the month. A sit-down chat with him opens a window on his campaign strategy: He will run as an ordinary guy with an extraordinary résumé. (Watch Richardson discuss his key issues)
The son of a Mexican mother and an American businessman, the bilingual Richardson grew up in Mexico City but was educated in the Boston, Massachusetts, area. If successful, he would be this country's first Hispanic president.
He believes his résumé is a good fit for the times: former energy secretary when the country is looking for a way out of dependence on Middle East oil; former ambassador to the United Nations at a time when the country's international diplomacy is under fire; a governor in a party that has its most presidential success with governors (Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton); a westerner as his party looks to the usually Republican region as fertile territory.
Richardson has also been a congressman and a diplomatic troubleshooter.
"I am not just somebody who looks pretty and votes ... and gives a speech", says Richardson. "I have actually done it."
There is a bit of Energizer Bunny to Richardson. His sometimes beleaguered staff says he works constantly, usually juggling several things at once. He has brought industry, jobs, a budget surplus and recognition to New Mexico. He was re-elected in 2006 with 69 percent of the vote.
Albuquerque Journal reporter Leslie Linthicum, who has covered the governor for years, calls him "pragmatic, a fixer of problems," not so much passionate about issues, more about getting things done.
He says his signature issues on the presidential campaign trail will be foreign policy and energy independence.
He is opposed to the war in Iraq, saying that if elected, he would have U.S. forces out within a year, combining that withdrawal with diplomacy. On social issues, he is opposed to gun control. He supports abortion rights and gay rights but opposes gay marriage.
Critics say he is vindictive, short-tempered and a publicity hound. Some lawmakers accuse him of using the state agenda to buff up his presidential credentials. (Others, however, say New Mexico residents are excited about the prospects of a first-ever presidential candidate from the state).
Republican state Sen. Stuart Ingle told CNN that Richardson is probably "the best governor I have ever seen in getting publicity."
Richardson cops to being demanding of staff and forceful in pushing his agenda, saying, "I am aggressive. I do push hard. I try to get my legislation passed. ... I go to the public a lot."
The governor would begin as a long shot, and he knows it. He notes "rock stars" (read: Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama) in the race, but says that shouldn't deter anybody. He says he is exactly where he wants to be -- "moving up."
A CNN-Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted March 9-11 shows just 3 percent of registered Democratic voters pick Richardson as their favorite.
His presidential exploratory committee was set up in January. The Associated Press reported in mid-February that Richardson raised $2 million during an Albuquerque fundraiser. In Iowa, when asked about his fundraising, he assured reporters, "We'll be respectable."
Richardson is convinced he can connect with voters, who he believes want to see somebody like themselves. He says he is "not the most consultant-driven candidate of perfection." Recently described as "inelegant," Richardson says that may be accurate, but that is me. ... I am also real."
He would like to drop 10 more pounds.
March 17, 2007
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