Monday, July 18, 2005

It's A Big Monday Blog On Big Bill; Where Does He Stand? Analysts & Alligators Go All Out In Crystal Balling His Fortunes; A Look Behind The Numbers 

Big Bill
With the Guv primary election less than a year away, where does Big Bill stand with the New Mexico public? Are there opportunities for the GOP to take him down a notch, or even pull a magnificent upset? What does his standing here tell us about his chances for the Dem prez nomination? I posed these and other questions to political junkies and Alligators who weighed the latest poll numbers and news events and helped paint the big picture of Big Bill.

The latest Survey USA poll (July 10-12, MOE +-4.1%) gives the Guv a 53% approval rating with 39% disapproving. A lot of folks are going to arch their eyebrows when they see that and they should. What about those polls in the ABQ Journal showing the Big Guy with ratings well above 60%? The problem is those polls asked whether people had a favorable opinion of the Guv, not what they thought of the job he's doing.

"The job approval is the best question because it is a good forecast of what an incumbent would get in a two way race," offered one veteran poll watcher. He added that the Survey USA weighed its poll with 38% Republicans, a few too many, thus he believes the Guv's job approval is closer to 55%.

"This is a good number. It's is hard for a Democratic governor in a state as diverse as this to crack the 60% mark in job approval. There is simply too many conservatives. He won election in a landslide with 55%. I think if the R's field a decent opponent he is unlikely to beat that number. However, if they come up with a complete sacrificial lamb it could be done," he analyzed.


There is potential trouble lurking in the numbers. For example, the Guv pulls just a 61% disapproval rating from R's with a historically big 34% giving him the thumbs up. "He's done a good job pulling them over. But that strength could be turned into a weakness. What if the Republicans were to start moving back to say 75% or 80% opposed? That could take down his approval rating to near 50%," commented one R analyst.

And then there is that troublesome Hispanic approval rating of 61%. Sure it's high, but not that high for a Hispanic governor, and a constituency group that is supposed to be bedrock D. "It's interesting. He has two announced opponents, (Bengie Regensburg and Eli Chavez) both Hispanics. They see him as putting himself above them. It's his imperial air that has caused him problems with this group," said our polling source. Your blogger would add that conservative influence on positions such as abortion and other social values have not helped the pro-choice Dem Guv in the North.

An insider R says he sees Big Bill's re-elect number at 55%, agreeing that the 2002 58% benchmark may have been a peak. "You don't make many friends as you go along," he mused. He agreed that 60% was possible if the R's don't fight hard.

Big Bill's missteps--buying a $5.5 million state jet and his latest speeding violation--probably dented him a bit, but one Alligator offered a theory on why it may not have hurt as much as the R's would have liked. "He was hit on the plane, but at the same time he was in New Hampshire running for president. I think the prestige of running and the pride some voters had in the governor may have bought him insurance on the plane and spending issues," he speculated.

Big Bill's 75% approval rating among Dems in the Survey USA poll is solid, according to the politicos. Yes, there is some Hispanic opposition, but are they going to vote Republican? No. He has some fence mending to do, but plenty of time to do it. I would add that they might not vote R, but they could stay home, like many apparently did in last year's NM Prez battle.

Paul Bardacke
Today's scene reminds me a bit of 1990 when old warhorse Bruce King was bidding for a third term for governor and restless Dems got behind former Attorney General Paul Bardacke to challenge Bruce. Bardacke was soundly defeated in the primary and King went on to win big against a weak Republican Party led that year by Frank Bond.

But there is a difference this time. Our Guv is seeking the Dem nod for Prez and that could be an incentive for the national Rs to come in and apply pressure to keep his numbers down.

"The R's have been fixated on attracting Hispanics. Richardson poses a threat to that plan either as a presidential or vice-presidential candidate. It may be in their interest to get involved even if the goal is just to weaken him." offered up one Gator.

All agreed that the Big Bill job approval near the mid-50's is solid, but some of his supporters feared the Journal polls putting him in the low 60's may have set the bar too high. As the political community absorbs other polling numbers he could be perceived as more vulnerable. The Survey USA poll will be out each month, giving the national press and NM politicos fresh numbers to track and measure the impact of the Guv's media triumphs and errors.


Big Bill isn't the only Dem guv seeking the Dem prez nod. How does he measure up against the others?. He's in the middle. Pennsylvania Guv Ed Rendell is at 45% approval in the Survey USA, Virginia Guv Mark Warner has a ten point edge on Big Bill, garnering a whopping 63% job approval rating and Iowa Guv Tom Vilsack comes in at 54% approval.

"The Richardson campaign needs to manage expectations about next year. National observers may expect him to win re-election with over 60% and that is not a no-brainer. They need to focus on the percentage they can beat their opponent by and not emphasize the 60% which is the traditional sign of a landslide," advised our polling Gator, pointing out that R John Sanchez suffered a 16 point beating at the hands of Big Bill.

More immediately the Richardson camp has that sticky Hispanic problem. Yes, former State Rep. Regensberg of Mora county and Eli Chavez, running as an independent, may not be mainstream opponents, but they will get a share of the spotlight and they could harden opposition and lower turnout. As for the R's the magic formula is available to them in the latest numbers. Get that disapproval rating among Republicans up and romance conservative Hispanic Dems. Easily said. But they are up against a master of the game who plays for keeps. Determination and resolve are his hallmarks. The R's will need the same to make a match out of this one.

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