As the crowd chanted his name, the governor of New Mexico entered the Roundhouse, where he will next week oversee the beginning of the '08 legislative session, and told the supporters and media packing the Rotunda that as of Jan. 10 his presidential campaign has ended and he's home.
Looking cheerful and cracking jokes, Richardson characterized his year-long campaign as "a remarkable process," and one, he said, from which he learned "I don't have all the answers," prompting laughter from the heavily Democratic audience.
Richardson credited his campaign as having influenced the discourse of the 2008 presidential race, noting that, "A year ago, we were the only major campaign calling for the removal of all of our troops within a year's time from Iraq. We were the only campaign calling for a complete reform of education in this country…and we were the campaign with the most aggressive clean energy plan and the most ambitious standards for reducing global warming…now all of the remaining candidates are coming to our point of view."
But Richardson-who has emphasized his dislike for personal attacks among candidates-also paid due to the other past and present Democrat contenders, singling each out with words of praise. He noted John Edwards as a "singular voice for the most downtrodden and forgotten among us," Illinois Sen. Barack Obama as "a bright light of hope and optimism" and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton as someone whose "poise in the face of adversity is matched only by her lifetime of achievement and deep understanding of the challenges we face."
Richardson said he would not be endorsing any of the remaining candidates, but urged those who had supported him "to take a long and thoughtful look at the remaining Democrats. They are all strong contenders who each, in their own way, would bring desperately needed change to our country."
Richardson said that with the end of his presidential run, he plans to continue his international missions, ride his horse and work for the election of New Mexico Congressman Tom Udall, who is running for the US Senate seat to replace Pete Domenici. Udall, who introduced Richardson, gave the governor props for running the most "substantive" campaign and told him, and the crowd: "You worked the hardest Gov. Richardson."
Richardson's announcement follows lackluster showings in the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses, where he garnered 2 and 5 percent, respectively. He did not take questions from the media following the press conference, and did not speak to the ongoing question of whether he hopes to secure either a slot as a Vice Presidential running mate for whomever wins the Dem nomination or, as is often mentioned, an appointment as Secretary of State. Although Richardson has dropped out of the race, he will still be listed as a candidate for New Mexico's Feb. 5 Democratic caucus, which is part of the so-called Super Tuesday races.
Richardson did acknowledge the next legislative session, which begins Jan. 15, and his universal health-care proposal, which he has made his top priority.
In addition to thanking his wife, Barbara Richardson, staff and supporters, Richardson ended his speech by calling himself "the luckiest man I know."
"I am married to my high school sweetheart. I live in a place called the Land of Enchantment. I have the best job in the world. And I just got to run for president of the Untied States."
And to legislators and citizens, he said he had a message: "I am back."