PORTSMOUTH — New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said it is important for his campaign that he have a good showing in New Hampshire.
Richardson, a Democratic candidate for president, said he needs to beat at least one of the party's three frontrunners, Barack Obama, John Edwards or Hillary Clinton.
He added that momentum for his campaign is growing in New Hampshire and elsewhere.
"I have enough funds to compete effectively in the first four states," he said. "We have offices, volunteers and infrastructure. We will be running more ads. My name identification is increasing, and the impressions are favorable."
His "job interview" ads helped his name recognition in New Hampshire, and today, the campaign will unveil a new ad in conjunction with tonight's debate at Dartmouth College.
"The ad focuses on the different opinions on the question of the residual troop issue between me and the other candidates, with prominent activists supporting my position," said Richardson. "I have the most effective way to end the war, leaving no residual troops behind. It's a positive ad to highlight policy issues affecting the campaign. We need a national movement to end the war."
In fact, Richardson said, he plans to make the war in Iraq a focal point of the debate.
"Through the moderator, I will challenge the other candidates as to why (they) want to leave troops and for how long," he said. "I have asked that question and have yet to get an answer, so I will press intensively. It is the fundamental issue dividing the candidates. I want to ask Clinton, Obama and Edwards, 'Why leave 75,000 troops behind?' They say those are noncombat troops, so how do they defend themselves. I'm not saying immediately, all at once. It could be eight months; just do not leave troops behind to be targets."
Before the debate, Richardson plans to attend the Democratic student meeting at Dartmouth. He will also be at the "watch" party following the event.
Recent news that members of Blackwater USA, a private security firm with a strong presence in Iraq, have been charged with firing on and killing Iraqis is to Richardson an indicator of how bad things are in Iraq.
"The situation with companies like Blackwater USA is symbolic and indicative of the horrendous mess this war has gotten us in," he said. "I think private security is mostly counterproductive. There are about 180,000 private security forces there, and about 21,000 are American. Bring them home. Iraqis who live there have to continue that work."
The only way private security is not counterproductive is if there are attacks to U.S. embassies, said Richardson.
"I think that private security firms need to abide by U.S. laws and if they act inappropriately, they must be held accountable," he said. "If it's true some are selling weapons on the black market, there has to be checks."
On the pledge signed by some candidates, saying they will not campaign in states that try to force earlier primaries than New Hampshire, Richardson said he comfortably signed it.
"I urge state leaders and the national party to try and resolve these conflicts that put candidates in a difficult position, but I honor the pledge," he said. "I believe New Hampshire and Iowa deserve to be first."
Clinton leads Obama
The race: The presidential race for Democrats in New Hampshire
The numbers: Hillary Rodham Clinton, 43 percent; Barack Obama, 20 percent; John Edwards, 12 percent; Bill Richardson, 6 percent
Of interest: By 36 percent to 24 percent, Clinton was picked ahead of Obama as being likeliest to bring needed change to the U.S., outpolling the Illinois senator on what is supposed to be one of the strongest appeals of his candidacy.
About the poll: The CNN-WMUR telephone poll, done by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, was conducted from Sept. 17 to 24 and involved interviews with 307 adults who said they plan to vote in the Democratic primary. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.