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Published: Saturday, 1/19/2008

Richardson's exit

IT WAS disappointing but predictable that, after weak finishes in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson would feel compelled to drop out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

It may not have been 100 percent clear that Mr. Richardson wasn't going to make it, since his strength in a Western state or one with a significant Hispanic population had not yet been tested, but, unfortunately, money speaks loudly in political campaigns. In addition, he takes very seriously his responsibilities as governor.

Nonetheless, Mr. Richardson is a man with considerable experience relevant to the presidency and high-level governance in general. He served in Congress for 14 years. He carries substantial foreign-affairs experience from previous posts as ambassador to the United Nations and a special envoy, flying into difficult capitals to thrash out awkward problems with sometimes very resistant foreign leaders.

He maintained a personal dialogue with the North Koreans even as governor of New Mexico. And Mr. Richardson was President Bill Clinton's secretary of energy, dealing with some of the most sensitive problems facing the country.

Regardless of who is finally chosen as the Democratic nominee, the candidate might want to consider Bill Richardson for vice president or as secretary of state in the new cabinet.

Like Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, who also have dropped out of the race, Mr. Richardson is still very much among the bright lights of American public life. He should be regarded as such if the Democratic ticket wins in November.

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