First, I want to be clear that I haven't yet thrown my support behind any of the aspirants to the Democratic presidential ticket. However, twice in the last month, Gov. Bill Richardson has really impressed me. The first was in May, when his campaign released his energy and climate change plan, which sounds like something off Al Gore's Christmas list and is the boldest such plan from a presidential candidate so far. While he doesn't come right out and say it, an inescapable consequence of his targets is that we'll be forced to do something about SUV-centric, suburban sprawl-oriented cities. Going after land use planning sounds pretty wonkish, but it drives at the heart of Bush Sr.'s doctrine that "the American way of life is not up for negotiation" -- a model that the vast majority of politicians reflexively echo today.
Then just this week I hear about another gutsy move on his part -- he's launched the Deauthorize Now campaign, calling on Congress to revoke the Iraq war authorization now, as in before the summer recess. As noted in the netroots, this is a pretty canny rhetorical strategy, but is also just ambitious.
It's easy to argue that Richardson has nothing to lose by swinging for the fences, since he's running a distant fourth place and suffers from a severe visibility gap as compared to the big three. Also worth noting is that Edwards is pursuing a similar strategy by positioning himself as the anti-Obama: easy on the lofty rhetoric, but long on specific, progressive, and ambitious policy goals. Still, you have to give Richardson a lot of credit for laying all the cards on the table, because he knows as well as anyone that this is the sort of gambit that politicians usually aren't allowed to get away with.
(As an aside, one could also snark that Richardson's energy goals are crafted such that his native Southwest will do quite nicely. Once we phase out half of our petroleum demand, he envisions much of what we still use coming in from Mexico. More importantly, the Southwest is to sunlight as Pennsylvania is to coal or Texas was to oil. But since most voters don't really think on thirty-year political horizons, it's probably safe to say that he won't win any primary votes on these grounds.)