Richardson: Rift Has Healed With Hillary, Not Bill New Mexico is one of the battleground states in next month's presidential election. Gov. Bill Richardson says the state is still up for grabs. Richardson, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, now supports Barack Obama. He says if the state's Hispanic votes help Obama win, then the new administration will recognize the growing power of the Hispanic vote.
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Richardson: Rift Has Healed With Hillary, Not Bill

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Richardson: Rift Has Healed With Hillary, Not Bill

Richardson: Rift Has Healed With Hillary, Not Bill

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Now, Indiana is still leaning toward McCain. Let's go next to a state that is leaning toward Obama, New Mexico. Our own Renee Montagne has been reporting from there, and earlier this week she spoke with the state's popular Democratic governor who is also Barack Obama's most visible supporter there.

RENEE MONTAGNE: On a cool evening in Santa Fe, Bill Richardson could be found on the white wooden porch of a graceful, old, brick building. Gathered before him on the lawn, the party faithful.

(Soundbite of applause)

Governor BILL RICHARDSON (Democrat, New Mexico): I know you. So I want every one of you to think of 30 people, 30 that you're going to persuade. Now, it's not 30 of your pals, or your spouse. They don't count.

MONTAGNE: You might remember how valued Richardson's endorsement was after he ended his own run for presidency, and how this longtime Clinton insider was called a Judas, a traitor, when he gave that endorsement to Barack Obama. Now Governor Richardson is doing all he can to ensure that New Mexico goes for Obama.

Governor RICHARDSON: New Mexico still will be up for grabs for a while, and this is why you're seeing such a ground war, mainly by the Democrats. I don't see Senator McCain doing much ground war here, which encourages me.

MONTAGNE: You're holding a rally in Santa Fe which is rather famously liberal. Why spend the time here?

Governor RICHARDSON: Because what we want from Santa Fe, we know we'll win it, but we want turnout. We want to hit 80 percent plus with the thousands of new registered voters that we've brought in. And Santa Fe is also, by a majority, Hispanic. If the Hispanic vote wins it for Obama in New Mexico, the new administration will recognize the growing power of the Hispanic vote. But also it will be good for New Mexico.

MONTAGNE: New Mexico has a different sort of Hispanic population than other regions, and it has an influence on how they vote. Could you paint us a picture?

Governor RICHARDSON: Yes, it's traditionally Democratic, but it's very independent. It is more interested in mainstream issues like the economy, like ending the war, like protecting the environment. Now, one of the big mistakes parties make, Republicans and Democrats, they try to appeal to Hispanic voters. Oh, OK, let's get the mariachis out, let's talk about immigration and civil rights. Hispanics care about mainstream issues. And this where I think Obama is making a very right move. He's not talking to Hispanics as a minority. He's saying to them, you're part of the American dream. And that is resonating.

Now, there was a little bit of a delay in getting then Hispanic support, because Senator Clinton was very powerful with Hispanics. Hispanics didn't know Senator Obama. Younger Hispanics liked him, but the older generation said, you know, who is this guy? We don't know him. Now that they're getting to know him, now that they see that he's positive and patriotic, he's getting a good little move that I see gradually strengthening almost every day.

MONTAGNE: But what about that, though? There was a huge question as to whether these folks would move from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama and whether there was a level of discomfort with him being African-American.

Governor RICHARDSON: I think that's a myth that just gets perpetuated without any foundation. There's always voters that are going to have that problem. It's not just Hispanics, it's others. But a significant number of Hispanics, they like Obama because he's had to struggle. They like him because he's had an international background, because he started out as community organizer and worked the neighborhoods and barrios. Sure there's always with some voters some prejudices, but I see that movement from Clinton to Obama almost total in northern - I almost see it happening. It's taken some time, though. You know, there were some scars, some healing to do, but I see it happen.

MONTAGNE: What about you? Have you reconciled with the Clintons? Have you recently talked to Bill and Hillary Clinton?

Governor RICHARDSON: Well, I had a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton about two months ago. And I'm very comfortable with what I did endorsing Senator Obama. And we raised close to $250,000 for her debt. She appreciated it. You know, we talked. Have I heard from President Clinton? No. It could pretty much be a permanent fissure, but that's politics, that's OK. I did what I thought was best for the country. I'm still very fond of the Clintons. I've reconciled with her. But with him, he wants to keep a grudge, that's fine with me. I move on. I'm governor of New Mexico. I'm happy where I am.

MONTAGNE: Well, Governor, thank you very much for talking with us.

Governor RICHARDSON: Thank you, thank you.

INSKEEP: That's our own Renee Montagne speaking with Democratic Governor Bill Richardson in his home state of New Mexico. Now, tomorrow Renee focuses on the Hispanic vote in New Mexico. And if the election does come down to that battleground state, the Latino vote could make the difference. It's Morning Edition from NPR News.

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