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Bill Richardson Enters 2008 US Presidential Race

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson became the latest Democrat to officially enter the crowded 2008 presidential race Monday. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has the latest on the campaign from Washington.

Richardson has been running for months but officially announced his candidacy in Los Angeles where he said he hoped to repair what he called the ravages of the Bush administration.

"This presidential election is unlike any others that we have ever seen," he said. "From day one, we have to repair the damage done here at home and our reputation abroad. And that all starts with restoring diplomacy as the primary instrument of our foreign policy and basic fairness as the primary means for solving problems here at home."

Richardson has wide experience in government. He previously served as a congressman, ambassador to the United Nations and energy secretary under President Clinton.

Richardson favors a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and is one of eight Democrats now in the race.

Richardson has had trouble breaking into the top tier of Democratic candidates that so far includes Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and former Senator John Edwards.

Craig Crawford of Congressional Quarterly magazine says at the moment, the Democratic race appears to favor Hillary Clinton.

"As the landscape currently stands, I think she has beaten back the Barack Obama challenge, and a lot of it is because the hierarchy of the party is with her," he said. "She is collecting these endorsements around the country from governors and mayors with big networks that get out the vote in Democratic primaries."

But Crawford and other analysts caution that the election is a long ways off and that voters will not even begin the selection process until next January with the Iowa caucuses.

Richardson hopes his Hispanic heritage will appeal to voters in California with its large Hispanic population. California is among several states that have moved up their presidential primaries to next February 5 in hopes of having a greater impact on the presidential selection process.

Florida Governor Charlie Christ signed a bill Monday that shifts the Florida primary from February 5 to January 29 in hopes of luring candidates in to campaign even earlier in the primary season.

University of Virginia expert Larry Sabato says the competition among states to have a voice in the presidential selection process has never been so fierce.

"The tremendous frontloading that will occur on February 5th nearly guarantees that the first four or five states to vote will be the ones to pick the nominees," he said.

A new poll in the early contest state of Iowa shows former North Carolina Senator John Edwards narrowly leading the Democratic field over Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Bill Richardson was in fourth place.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney leads the Republican field in Iowa, followed by Arizona Senator John McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.