What would Truman have done in 2004?

Ned Cantwell

You are tired of reading about it, I know, but permit me a few closing notes on the political campaign recently and mercifully ended. Time to wrap this one up and deposit in the trash bin.

That the race for the presidency translated into a huge political bragging contest between two New Mexico political icons was starkly illustrated by the Albuquerque Journal coverage two days after the election.

Gov. Bill Richardson, despite the fact it no longer made a difference in the national count, steadfastly maintained New Mexico could still show up in the Kerry column. His refusal to concede was based on the determination too many votes had still not been counted.

Six days after the election New Mexico, with so few votes to count, still hadn’t done the job. What goes? It is embarrassing. On Monday, with Bush leading by 8,588 votes, the headline was “State not much closer to declaring a winner.”

According to the Joe Monahan state political blog — joemonahan.com — Richardson’s rival, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., was not particularly gracious in victory.
“Poor Bill Richardson,” he reportedly gloated in the morning hours after election day.

In a newspaper interview, Pete was more reserved. Hey, he said, Kerry conceded, Bush won; it’s time for state Demos to give it up.

That the national election was some sort of state referendum for Richardson and Domenici is silly on the face of it. These are two powerful, hugely popular New Mexico leaders and their efforts to rally their troops certainly had some effect on the New Mexico vote.

This election, however, was so complex, the electorate so emotionally charged, that it makes little sense to give Domenici credit for Bush’s victory or Richardson blame for Kerry’s loss. The stakes were too high for the voter to turn to political or entertainment celebrity for guidance. (Gee, I’m on the fence here. I wonder how Travis Tritt feels about this one? Or Jon Bon Jovi? Or Alec Baldwin?)

There is floating in the New Mexico political caldron the theory that Kerry’s loss will somehow reduce Richardson’s ability to work with the New Mexico Legislature and that it will prove to be a setback to any national ambitions the governor might be entertaining. That’s a stretch.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of three dozen visits by candidates who couldn’t love us enough but now will forget New Mexico exists, Las Cruces is left holding the bag. When President George landed there in August, his plane did $2.1 million damage to Runway 22. The Bush campaign doesn’t want to talk about it. I wouldn’t, either.

On that visit — check this out — the president’s air fleet included two C-17s and two 757s. Four huge planes for a simple visit to Las Cruces? It makes one long for more simple days and the storied whistle-stop campaigns waged by Harry Truman and Thomas Dewey.

“Give ’em hell” Harry would have said, “what can I possibly do with four planes?” History might show that Truman carried New Mexico. On the other hand, we might still be counting.

Ned Cantwell is a syndicated columnist living in Ruidoso. He can be contacted at:
ncantwell@charter.net