By Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny
The New York Times
March 22, 2008
PORTLAND, Ore. — “I talked to Senator Clinton last night,” Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico said on Friday, describing the tense telephone call in which he informed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton that, despite two months of personal entreaties by her and her husband, he would be endorsing Senator Barack Obama for president.
“Let me tell you: we’ve had better conversations,” Mr. Richardson said.
The decision by Mr. Richardson, who ended his own presidential campaign on Jan. 10, to support Mr. Obama was a belt of bad news for Mrs. Clinton. It was a stinging rejection of her candidacy by a man who had served in two senior positions in President Bill Clinton’s administration, and who is one of the nation’s most prominent elected Hispanics. Mr. Richardson came back from vacation to announce his endorsement at a moment when Mrs. Clinton’s hopes of winning the Democratic nomination seem to be dimming.
But potentially more troublesome for Mrs. Clinton was what Mr. Richardson said in announcing his decision. He criticized the tenor of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. He praised Mr. Obama for the speech he gave in response to the furor over racially incendiary remarks delivered by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.
And he came close to doing what Mrs. Clinton’s advisers have increasingly feared some big-name Democrat would do as the battle for the nomination drags on: Urge Mrs. Clinton to step aside in the interest of party unity.
“I’m not going to advise any other candidate when to get in and out of the race,” Mr. Richardson said after appearing in Portland with Mr. Obama. “Senator Clinton has a right to stay in the race, but eventually we don’t want to go into the Democratic convention bloodied. This was another reason for my getting in and endorsing, the need to perhaps send a message that we need unity.”
In many ways, the decision by Mr. Richardson, a longtime political ally of the Clintons, was as much a tale about his relationship with them as it was about the course of Mr. Obama’s campaign.