As Mark Murray at MSNBC.com reports, Joe Biden is picking a "for real" fight with Bill Richardson. No shit.
Biden called out Richardson's gubernatorial experience in a relatively small state of 1,954,599 at Friday’s AARP forum, quipping "That's like saying, you know, I played halfback when I was in high school, I can play in the pros -- a different deal." In other words, his executive experience means Bo Diddley on the national stage.
That's all just debate banter. The real fightin' words came by way of direct assault. Earlier that day the Biden campaign put out a press release accusing the New Mexico governor of flip-flopping on Iraq. Worse, they did this with a spin on Richardson's latest slogan. Check this, pulled directly from the release:
“Governor Richardson is right that he represents both experience and change – he has a lot of experience changing his mind on matters both large and small,” said Biden for President Campaign Manager Luis Navarro.Youch!
It didn't stop there. The very next morning Biden released another jab through the press, this time attacking Richardson on his health care record in response to his debate claim that he was "the only one here that has actually dealt with health care directly as a governor." Biden brought up the fact that Richardson had overseen a bed tax on retirement homes to make up for a budget shortage, though they don't mention it was later repealed. He also repeatedly calls it a "scheme" and worse still, compares Richardson to Bush:
“Governor Richardson likes to tout his gubernatorial experience as his principal qualification for president, but, as we have seen from President Bush, gubernatorial sleight-of-hand is not going to solve the problems of our nation."What gives?
Well, according to the Biden campaign it was nothing but a tactic to achieve a level playing field. They told MSNBC that Richardson has "gotten a free pass from the press. And we're not going to let that continue."
Well well, we didn't even have to wait until Wednesday to get the spin going. Richardson has been beaten up by the press far more than Biden. Certainly, he has made his fair share of mistakes on the campaign trail so far, from Meet the Press to HRC to SEIU, but those were all very well documented by the media.
As for his record, does bringing up an obscure and short-lived fiscal fix really that worthy of an attack? Furthermore, it was exposed as a New Mexico GOP talking point from the last election. Hardly a noble source among primary votres. And for what? A chance to move up toward 4th place?
Senator Biden was on Letterman last Thursday night, the same day as the AARP forum, and he looked and sounded deflated. It is clear that Joe Biden just flat out cannot believe he is getting such a big ol' whoopin' in the polls this time around. I can just see him telling his inner circle, "Joe Biden has been in the Senate for 35 (y)ears, gawddammit!"
I mean, this is a guy who thought he should have won it back in '88, and can't believe he is doing worse this time around with 20 more years under his belt. I would feel deflated, too. So it isn't surprising that Biden is making a push at something. His debate performances have been solid, his fundraising has not. His press has been good, there just hasn't been much of it.
But why Richardson? Conventional wisdom is the experience thing. Richardson is taking the mantle of best resume among the Dem contenders, and Biden wants a piece of it. He sees himself as the true statesman of the bunch and is getting tired of not getting credit for it, in part because he doesn't have any good catch phrases like Richardson does. Makes sense.
My theory, though, adds in a little sumthin'-sumthin' called the personality thing. I think that the Biden crew thinks that they can go after the personality and maverick vote, currently well within the aegis of the Richardson campaign. Both are more personable than most, chummy and chatty, and better yet able to elicit a good belly laugh every few minutes. Honestly, I think Biden resents that a little bit, too.
Problem #1, face time. You can't be that if you only come to New Hampshire every other month. And you can't help that if you are required to vote all the time and commuting from Delaware to do it. Enter the attacks.
Problem #2, Iraq. Despite Biden's attempt to paint Richardson as a flip-flopper, even a quick examination of the articles cited can be seen as either an evolution of ideas or simply the filling of a massive void in the policy arena. Over a year ago, when the American people elected a congress to end the war it wasn't as pertinent for a Presidential candidate to be making bold claims to remove the troops because it was implied that our elected officials in Washington would get'er done.
Unfortunately, over the course of a few months it became clear that it wasn't going to happen. Enter a major doorway for someone, anyone to step into and be the man to advocate a true end to the war.
With his commitment to a "responsible" pull out, Biden will never be that person. Argue what you will over the true definition of responsible, ranging anywhere from McCain to Richardson, but in Biden's case it doesn't mean an immediate withdrawal, and there are a lot of people who want that. I mean a lot. That is where I think a big chunk of Richardson's support is coming from, and little jabs at minor bits of record aren't going to do anything to change that.
But hey, if the feud makes for a few more jokes in Hanover this Wednesday night, I won't complain too much.