Richardson Can Benefit From Underdog Status in N.H.

May Play to Granite Staters Anti-Establishment Side

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CONCORD, N.H. -- Watch out for Bill Richardson.

No, it's not the silly baseball card put out by the New Mexico governor's presidential campaign. "2008 all star," it says, listing "positions played" as congressman, UN ambassador and energy secretary and "saves" as rescuing servicemen and hostages in Iraq, North Korea and Sudan.

Instead it's the possibility that New Hampshire voters could return to their sometimes anti-establishment tilt and irascibility and give a big boost to the underdog.

Gov. Richardson's fourth place showing in some polls is still a long way from the top, and conventional wisdom has it he's running for VP and has little chance of winning the nomination. He also wasn't yet attracting anything like the crowds seen at events of some other candidates, among them Clinton.

The governor repeatedly jokes about his standing during political appearances.

"I'm at 13%, so I'll take questions," he says at one point. At another he notes the state's long history of helping underdogs and asks voters to do it again.

He's far more serious on the issues, promising to follow the constitution as president, to return to diplomacy rather that force in foreign relations and promising an Apollo project to convert the U.S. away from fossil fuel in 10 years.

But if he's such an outside possibility, why in the middle of a Thursday morning work day are more than 100 pressing into a bookstore here, not just to meet the governor but to pay $25.95 for an autographed copy of his new book? What does it mean that amidst crises in Pakistan, both national and local media are increasingly turning to him for comment.

Finally is it meaningful that voters attending the events suggest they are rethinking their support of other candidates.

"He's someone I would like to speak for me in foreign affairs," said Susan Bavine, of Goffstown. She said she was also considering Sen. Barack Obama.

"I like Obama and I think he probably will be president in a couple of terms, but I don't think he's quite ready. I kind of like Hillary, but she's too much of a machine for me and I'd like to get away from that. Just because [Richardson] is low in the polls doesn't mean he can't win."

Katrina Richardson, of Hopkinton, suggests the underdog position can be an advantage.

"There is a lure to the underdog. Some people come under the umbrella of I haven't heard him because he hasn't the constant barrage [of advertising]. There is something about him. As your friends talk, they say you ought to consider him."

Richardson, of course, has another take on it. "I'm rising because I'm outworking everyone and I'm the candidate with the most positive message. My intervention in the last debate for Democrats to not tear each other down and be positive has been well received and I believe I have the most experience."