06/12/2007 02:23 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Bil. Richardson: the Dark Horse Emerging, Once Again, from the Democratic Debates

Let us be clear: Governor-Diplomat-Energy Secretary-Bill Richardson is not a great debater. The Senators are all better, and for a good reason: that's their livelihood.

Yet, every time the Dems convene, every time Richardson gets a shot at the electorate, every time he meets voters, he impresses, he shifts peoples' perspectives, he wins adherents. I have been listening to each of the candidates as they come through Seattle, and heard Richardson introduced -- by a person who was neutral in the race -- as those who are ALREADY President are often introduced: "an honor -- how often in your life do you get to stand next to a person who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 4 times?", "a man who has traveled to the most difficult hot spots to diffuse crises or to rescue US hostages -- even from Saddam Hussein" ... "the person the North Koreans called when they wanted to restart discussions".

Richardson was much better with the crowd than he was at the debate. Someone asked him about negotiating with Saddam, and his account mesmerized everyone -- not to mention the flourish of inviting Tariq Azziz, Saddam's foreign minister whom he knew was Christian, to go to mass with him.

Prior to the last debate, Richardson had climbed to 10% in Iowa, perhaps the result of his going on the air. But, he was still nowhere in general polling. Today, we learn, that after the debate, he is now 10% in general polling, and that cannot be related to his ad, because he has had none outside of New Hampshire and Iowa, or the "debating points" he scored, because he did not score many.

How to explain this? Possibly, people like that he has actually engaged in foreign policy rather than just talking about it (even Hillary was stimulated to thank him during the debate for what he did for President Clinton), and that he has governed a poor state with success and innovative solutions (who could not love his tax credits for businesses that locate in New Mexico AND that pay workers above the prevailing wage? his investment in early grade school education and health care for all children under 5?).

But, all that does not really come across in the debates. Even if it gets mentioned, there is no time for context or explanation. What is noteworthy during the debate is that Richardson is the only candidate who can, on almost every policy question, rattle off what he has ALREADY done. Perhaps, people are responding to actual solutions to real problems. That would be novel -- and refreshing.

Will Richardson go all the way? Impossible to know. If I were in the top 3, or the MSM who has annointed them, I would be praying that Richardson does not hone his debating skills.