New Mexico governor campaigning for Obama in West, Florida |

New Mexico governor campaigning for Obama in West, Florida

Colleen Slevin
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Bill Richardson, left, governor of New Mexico, chats with Paul Lopez, a member of the Denver City Council, during a stop by Richardson to promote Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Saturday, July 26, 2008, in southwest Denver. Richardson made several stops in Denver for the Obama campaign. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER ” New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson helped rally canvassers for Barack Obama in Denver on Saturday, part of an effort to reach out to Hispanic voters in Colorado as well as Nevada, New Mexico and Florida.

Richardson said the Rocky Mountain region is vital to getting Obama elected, pointing out that John Kerry lost New Mexico by about 2 percent of the vote and Colorado by about 4 percent in 2004.

A poll of swing states this week showed McCain had moved in on Obama’s earlier lead in Colorado, although McCain’s 2 percentage point edge was still within the poll’s margin of error. The poll found that white voters backed McCain by 10 points but that nearly six in 10 Hispanics prefer Obama in the state.

With Obama wrapping up his Mideast and European trip, Richardson also served as a surrogate for the Illinois senator at the American GI Forum convention in Denver on Friday evening, calling Obama a “once-in-a-generation leader” and praising his opposition to going to war in Iraq. Earlier in the day, John McCain appeared before the veterans group and ridiculed Obama for “the audacity of hopelessness” in his policies on Iraq.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Richardson said the United States could quickly recover its prestige in the world if Obama is elected. He said that was reflected in the large crowd Obama drew for his speech in Berlin.

“They want Americans to lead and they feel America hasn’t been leading,” Richardson said.

Richardson, who enjoyed considerable support in Colorado during his run for the White House, said energy, a perennial issue in the West, has emerged as the top issue nationally because of rising gas prices. The spike has led to increased pressure for drilling in environmentally sensitive areas but Richardson said energy companies should first drill on the 68 million acres they already have leased.

In New Mexico, Richardson has asked the federal government to protect wildlife on the Otero Mesa which the Bureau of Land Management has proposed opening to oil and gas drilling. The proposed drilling of Colorado’s Roan Plateau has also raised similar environmental concerns.

When asked about the Roan, Richardson said “I think there are other places to drill.”

In Denver, Richardson spoke to volunteers who went door-to-door in a heavily Hispanic neighborhood on the city’s west side after fanning out from the Service Employees International Union office. It’s a working-class neighborhood with a mix of small brick homes and public housing that also has a sizable Asian population. You can buy Vietnamese pho soup or a used car but not a Starbucks coffee.

“It’s a good thing and a bad thing because there are no coffee shops,” said the area’s city councilman, Paul Lopez, a former SEIU organizer.

Lopez backed Obama early in the campaign, partly because he connected with Obama’s background as a community organizer. He helped canvass for him during the race against Hillary Clinton.

When Richardson left SEIU, he headed with Lopez to another neighborhood to visit the tamale restaurant of former state senator Paul Sandoval, who backed Clinton and hasn’t decided who to back in November yet.

Richardson said he would head to Nevada later in the day and Florida next week.

He plans to return again to campaign in Colorado, including a visit to the state’s San Luis Valley. That’s the home of Sen. Ken Salazar and his brother, Rep. John Salazar, and one of Colorado’s poorest regions.

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