|(Rick Scibelli/Getty Images)|
SANTA FE - Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico ended his long-shot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination yesterday after finishing fourth in the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
He praised all of his Democratic rivals but endorsed no one. He encouraged voters to "take a long and thoughtful look" and elect one of them president.
Richardson said that although his support at the polls lagged, many of his leading rivals had moved closer to his positions on such issues as the war in Iraq and educating young Americans at home.
"Despite overwhelming financial and political odds, I am proud of the campaign we waged . . . and most importantly the influence we had on the issues that matter the most to the future of this country," he said.
Richardson, 60, announced his decision at the state Capitol, saying he was returning to "the best job in the world," as New Mexico's governor - a post that term limits will force him from in 2010. With the New Mexico Legislature convening for its annual one-month regular session on Tuesday, he said with a grin, "I'm back."
Richardson had one of the most wide-ranging résumés of any candidate to run for the presidency, bringing experience from his time in Congress, President Clinton's Cabinet as energy secretary, as US ambassador to the United Nations, and in the New Mexico State House, as well as his role as a freelance diplomat freeing Americans imprisoned in North Korea and the Sudan. He was trying to become the first Hispanic president.
But the better-financed, more-celebrated Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama dominated the spotlight in the campaign, and Richardson was never able to become a top-tier contender, trailing well behind them and former senator John Edwards of North Carolina.
Richardson fell below 5 percent in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday and came in with just 2 percent in the Iowa caucuses last week.
Edwards congratulated Richardson, saying he had run a good race.
"He was a very good candidate, a serious candidate," Edwards said in Columbia, S.C. "I congratulate him. He ought to be proud of what he's done. What's happened is, over time the race is becoming more focused. I think that's good for democracy. I think this thing's going on for a long time."
Within hours of Richardson's news conference, Clinton trumpeted endorsements by two prominent Richardson backers, former ambassador Edward Romero and Henry Cisneros, the first Hispanic to serve as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
"Governor Richardson is a great public servant and a friend," Clinton said in a statement. "He waged a hard-fought and substantive campaign and helped drive the conversation on the great issues facing our nation."