Voters 'thirst for change,' Richardson says

By DEBORAH BAKER

Associated Press Writer

SANTA FE - Gov. Bill Richardson credited strong candidates and a last-minute blitz of visits for the big voter turnout that swamped some polling places on Tuesday.

He said it indicated an "enormous thirst for change."

"The turnout today, nationally and in New Mexico, in my judgment shows that Democrats are going to have a good day in November, when we elect the president," Richardson said at a news conference Tuesday night.

He also said the state Democratic Party did a good job overall on the caucus and blamed glitches on the "unanticipated, last-minute huge turnout."

Richardson also predicted a very close race in New Mexico between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

"I think it's going to be within one or two percent either way," he said.

Richardson, who ended his own campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination last month, didn't endorse either candidate and said he's not sure he will.

"I've always said endorsements by politicians ... don't mean a thing," Richardson said. "I think it's how the candidate connects with voters."

The governor said Republican Sen. John McCain would be a formidable opponent for whoever is the Democratic presidential nominee.

Richardson said McCain is viewed as independent and strong on national security - although "he's wrong on the war in Iraq" - and as open-minded on the immigration issue, which will give him some Hispanic votes.

And since he's from Arizona, "it kind of upsets the Democratic strategy of winning every Western state, like we anticipated we would," Richardson said.

"He'll be a tough opponent," the governor said. "We will win, but he will be tough."

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