Richardson Sees Momentum Gain

This story was written by Shawn Gude, The Daily Iowan
Democratic presidential-nomination hopeful Gov. Bill Richardson isn't in the top-tier of candidates in Iowa, but he was still positive about his chances in the race Monday morning after an Iowa City Foreign Relations Council event.

The New Mexico governor - who is in fourth place, according to a recent Iowa Poll in the Des Moines Register - said a large number of Iowans are still undecided, which he cites as a major reason his morale is still high.

"I think we're gaining a lot of momentum," said Richardson, who added that he must finish in the top three in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada in order to have a shot at the nomination.

The governor focused on Iraq, foreign policy, and diplomacy at the morning event at the Iowa City Public Library, which drew around 135 people - half of which gave him a standing ovation after his introduction.

He sounded like many of the other Democrats on those subjects, stressing a political rather than a military solution in Iraq, ending unilateralism, and asserting the need for Americans to rebuild their image abroad.

Richardson is different than fellow Democratic-nomination hopefuls in one respect, though: His plan for withdrawing troops from Iraq is much more radical.

While such top Democratic candidates as New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards would all leave residual forces behind, the governor supports removing all troops from the Persian Gulf country within a year.

Richardson asserted the feasibility of his "one-point plan," contending that he has "military experts" - one retired lieutenant is listed on his website as supporting the plan - who favor his withdrawal plan.

"Can we really push the Maliki government - the Iraqi government - to get serious about reconciliation while we have troops there?" Richardson asked. "I believe the answer is no."

He told the crowd that he envisions a plan similar to the Dayton Agreement (which ended the 1990s war in Bosnia) for Iraq that would give power to all involved parties.

He also highlighted other "transnational issues" he believes the United States needs to focus on, such as global warming, world poverty, reforming the United Nations, genocide, and global disease. In addition, he rejected torture and warrantless wiretapping and pledged to reinstitute habeas corpus, echoing the positions of many mainstream Democrats.

Richardson framed his ideas as a return to American ideals and values and referred to former President John F. Kennedy several times.

Iowa City resident Peter Hansen said that although he hasn't decided on a candidate to caucus for, Richardson is in a "short list of six" that he's thinking about supporting.

"I kind of got some sense of his personality, his tone, and he has a sense of humor: He doesn't take himself too seriously," said Hansen, who agrees with the governor on a number of foreign-policy issues. "We could certainly do a lot worse than Bill Richardson [as president]."

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