Barbara Richardson Supports from the Sidelines In a presidential campaign with so many large personalities, Barbara Richardson takes a lower profile. In NPR's series of conversations with the presidential candidates' spouses, Richardson says she prefers providing support from the sidelines.
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Barbara Richardson Supports from the Sidelines

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Barbara Richardson Supports from the Sidelines

Barbara Richardson Supports from the Sidelines

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And now to the current run for the White House and our series of conversations with campaign spouses. Today, we hear from Barbara Richardson, the white of Democratic candidate, Bill Richardson. Many of the current campaign spouses have a very high profile. Barbara Richardson prefers a low-key role. She says providing support from the sidelines has been ax her preference as her husband served as a congressman, as energy secretary, as U.N. ambassador and as Governor of New Mexico. I asked her about her biggest challenge in their long, political life.

Ms. BARBARA RICHARDSON (Wife of Governor Bill Richardson.) I think as a private person when he decided to run for Congress, it was difficult. He lost his first race in 1980 for Congress. Ad that was really difficult for me because it was a total change in our lives in terms of campaigning and going out there. We didn't have a lot of money, so I was the chief cook and bottle-washer in the office and envelope stuff for a while. He went out and campaigned. And that was really a top knock for him when we lost.

But I think in perspective, you know, you learn from every experience and you move on. And I always think that's important to remember when you're in the midst of a difficult situation is that things really do work themselves out. You know, for example, in this congressional race, he lost. New Mexico - in the subsequent election in 1982, received a third Congressional seat. And it was a seat that - was the area that - in which we lived in Northern New Mexico. And I couldn't have predicted that standing up on the platform conceding election night in 1980.

NORRIS: You know, we've seen a very distinctive group of spouses on the campaign trail this year. Some of them are very outspoken, some even managed it and in some cases upstage their husbands or their wife. How do you see your role in your husband's campaign?

Ms. RICHARDSON: I see my role as, not only supporting him, but introducing him to people in a personal way as I see him, to give people a perspective that they may not get from him. And I do talk a lot about the hostage rescue missions that he's undertaken because I don't think he talks a lot about that. And I think it's something that makes him unique as a candidate. He has a facility for bridging the gap. And that gap could be the halls of Congress or it could be reaching out to a dictator of an isolated regime. But in either case, I think that's important for people to recognize in terms of dealing with issues today.

NORRIS: These earlier races are very important in terms of momentum and placement and will help determine the presidential field in part by narrowing the field. At what point do you have to sit down and have some really difficult discussions and decisions with your husband and the campaign staff? I mean, at what point - if you don't have enough money, if you don't punch through in the polls - do you have to start having a reality check?

Ms. RICHARDSON: Well, Iowa's key. It's really the lynchpin of my husband's campaign strategy. He's got to do well there.

NORRIS: What does do well mean?

Ms. RICHARDSON: I think he's got to move up to within the top three. So, I really don't discount Bill Richardson. Believe me, in 25 years of public life, I've learned not to count him out. He works very hard. He has enormous energy and he has a lot of determination. So, again, I don't think this race is a forgone conclusion by any means.

NORRIS: Barbara Richardson, thanks for talking to us.

Ms. RICHARDSON: Okay, Michele. It's my pleasure.

NORRIS: That was Barbara Richardson. She's the wife of Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richardson.

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