Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson knows a few things about Washington. After stints as congressman, ambassador to the United Nations and secretary of energy, he stands out as a major figure in Democratic politics.
Oh yes, he knows something about running for president, too, as an unsuccessful candidate in the early primaries and caucuses of 2008.
So it is fitting that he will address the 2012 presidential campaign during his 7 p.m. speech Tuesday in the Montante Cultural Center of Canisius College, part of the William H. Fitzpatrick Chair of Political Science Lecture Series. The event is free and open to the public.
Before heading to Buffalo, Richardson took a few minutes to share with the Politics Column some thoughts on next year and all that lies ahead. As you might expect, he predicts President Obama will be re-elected.
"Narrowly," he added.
Richardson says a big advantage favoring Obama is that the American people like him. They're rooting for him personally, even if a sick economy stands out as his Achilles' heel.
He predicts, from his own experience, that voters have yet to see his combative side.
"I campaigned against him," he said. "I know him when he's backed into a corner; he's resilient and he fights back. And he's effective."
The stage may have been set for some of that "fight back" mentality with the jobs and economic plan just introduced by the president. Obama contends that jobs will flow from his $447 billion package of tax cuts and spending. But the governor recognizes that the package as proposed by Obama is already facing big-time GOP opposition on Capitol Hill. So he sees an evolving strategy centered around the president taking his plan to the people; a campaign necessitated by the inability of Washington to agree on anything.
"I'm having dinner at the college with John LaFalce," Richardson said of his former congressional colleague. "When LaFalce and Jack Quinn and I were there, we all got along. In the end, we resolved our differences. Now that's absent."
There is no judgment here on what is the right strategy. But there is a recognition of Richardson's observation that over the next year, the president's mind-set regarding the opposition is: "Bring it on."
"He has no choice," Richardson said.
On the GOP side, the governor sees the race boiling down to two gubernatorial colleagues -- Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. He's watching Romney especially, even as Perry is dominating most polls.
"He's been there before, and is prone to make fewer mistakes," he said of Romney. "But ask me again later."
You can ask Richardson, too, at Canisius on Tuesday. Seating in the Montante Center is limited; doors open at 6:30 p.m.
As questions surround whether State Sen. Mark Grisanti will defend his seat next year as a Democrat or Republican (he is currently registered with the GOP), there is no shortage of potential Democratic opponents already lining up.
One is Hamburg attorney Michael Amodeo, who could enjoy eased residency requirements in a reapportionment year. Amodeo unsuccessfully competed in the 2010 Assembly race ultimately won by Republican Kevin Smardz, and is now talking with Senate Dems about another shot in 2012.
"I'm looking at the seat and the numbers, and will probably start raising some money," Amodeo said last week.
Grisanti must decide on a party line for 2012 by Oct. 14, the first step in a race already destined for statewide attention.