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Earlier this week, as Gov. Bill Richardson grumbled about the train wreck of his universal health care legislation, the media asked if he was going to endorse a presidential candidate. The Democratic caucuses are coming up on Tuesday, and readers will recall that Richardson dropped out of the Democratic race for President on Jan. 10. Since then, he has returned to New Mexico and grown a beard.“I may endorse before Feb. 5 and I may not,” he said, adding vaguely, “They all have good qualities.”Digging deeper for an explanation, he said, “Endorsements by other politicians don’t mean much,” and then, “Don’t be guided by me.”Ah, come on, Bill, think what we’re missing. You know Hillary from the old days. Recently, you saw her and Barack up close at all those debates. You know what they’re really talking about, what kind of people they are off-camera. What is it, then? Don’t you trust your own instincts? Why would you deprive New Mexicans, in this one area, of your expert opinion?About that same time, you apparently told The Washington Post that if you made an endorsement it would have more to do with “gut feeling” than past associations.Since you obviously had a pretty strong connection to the Clinton administration with your stints as ambassador to the United Nations and Energy Secretary, and because Obama is something of a favorite on the emotional scale, one might interpret this as a little whisper of encouragement for the senator from Illinois. You also told a nice story about how kind he was to save you from embarrassment during one of the debates when you had a lapse of attention.Maybe you’re just trying to let him down easy.You said you were going to be out of state during the campaign visits. Just a coincidence, you said, and we take you at your word that it was prearranged and not intended to snub either candidate.Still, one can’t help notice that a large contingent of the state’s Democratic Party leaders, including Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, was onstage with former President Bill Clinton in Albuquerque, far fewer at the Ted Kennedy event for Obama in Santa Fe earlier that day, or for Obama’s personal appearance Friday. Of course, events may outpace all of these questions and wispy inferences if Hillary’s last-minute decision to campaign in New Mexico is followed by your doing superbowlsies with her husband, as the gossip goes.Then, never mind.But let’s get back to basics. It’s understandable that you might feel the race is too close to call and that rather than be on the wrong side, you’d be better off endorsing someone who comes courting, or let’s say bearing at least a pretty solid proposal. But that would mean you’ve decided that endorsing would be less risky than choosing wrong.Personally, I’d think Hillary would want Obama to be her running mate and if he’d accept, the story’s over. But it seems less likely that Barack would go for Hillary, if you follow. I can’t see the Clintons fitting all that happily ever after into the veep’s residence at One Observatory Circle.So why not just endorse the senator from Illinois who is in a position to requite the favor and who also might best use the experience you would bring to the relationship?Must be an awfully close call in your mind, huh? Just one impertinent word of advice: If you do share taquitos and frog legs with Bill Clinton, don’t mention how your health coverage went aground because you did what the industry wanted you to do and they seem to have a vested interest in avoiding reform. I think he’s heard that story already.
E-mail Roger Snodgrass at email@example.com.