Monday, August 22, 2005

My Mayoral Oracles: Oh, So Close! But No Cigar Yet; Poll Has Wind At Marty's Back But Clouds Hover; Exclusive Analysis From The All-Star Pros Is Next! 

Forty percent is now the magic number in an ABQ mayoral race. Reach that and you are home free. But cries of "free at last" can not yet be shouted by the campaign of incumbent Mayor Marty, according to a consensus of top Duke City and NM political experts. The door, however little, is open, and Marty's opposition is trying to make the most of it. The phone lines of La Politica blazed on a normally placid summer August Sunday yesterday. The ABQ Journal poll showing Marty on the bubble--exactly at 40%--was the focus. (Undecided--31%, Griego--13%, Winter--11%, Steele--3%, none of the above--2%) Also, the meager 11% polled by Republican City Councilor Brad Winter was the subject of intense speculation. What does it mean? Where do we go from here? I turn you over to the able hands of my 2005 ABQ Mayoral All-Star Team. Campaigns that are cash shy and unable to afford consultants are advised to read on. They will be getting 1,700 words that would normally cost them thousands.


Why not start with the guy who did the poll and has been doing them for better than 20 years, Brian Sanderoff of Research and Polling? Upon seeing the numbers, Brian and I basically said the same thing: "It's not over yet." And we further agree that the ball is now firmly in the opposition court. "Are they going to raise the six digits necessary to put this in play or not? I have seen lots of wild things happen in the last four weeks of a campaign, but the opposition must have the resources." Analyzed Brian.

The part of the poll that drew the most attention in the political community had 63% of those polled approving of Marty's job performance, but only 40% saying they would vote for him. Why the big disconnect? "Well, a lot of the undecided say he's doing a good job, and they could break his way. It would violate the normal rules, but rules were made to be broken," said the veteran pollster. He added that the mayor would be best advised to continue to go after Republican votes. "If he can prevent them from consolidating behind Brad he will be very strong," said the numbers cruncher from his North Valley home on another working weekend.

Other analysts attributed the big disconnect to a "personal dislike" of the mayor and his past performance--including such things as the ABQPAC scandal. "They may say he's doing a good job, but they obviously don't want to vote for him," was one explanation I heard several times.


Pollster Pavlides is another one who has been on the scene for decades and has the added benefit of having done the campaign polling for Mayor Marty four years ago. He flatly declared that "if the other campaigns do their jobs, there is going to be a run-off. I think this is Marty's top number. With those leaning toward him, he is probably at about 45%, but if Griego and Winter bring that number down they can have him below 40% when the undecided starts to break and keep him from going over the top. In other words, negative campaigning is coming to a town near you. Pavlides said "Winter needs to move now. He needs to be on TV. Pavlides said the 11% that Winter polled does not take him out of the race, that four years ago R Bob Schwartz started from similar levels and went on to get 29%. Pavlides sees Griego moving into the mid 20% range but thinks the ultimate race is Marty vs. Brad. "It's the same old story: one Republcian candidate is in this race. He must unite that party behind him, or else." Pavlides declared.


"This is one of those polls where both sides are on the edge, said the veteran GOP politico and former gubernatorial and congressional staffer. "Marty has not closed the deal and Brad has not shown that he has put together a viable candidacy. The odds favor Marty reaching the 40% Oct. 4, but they are not overwhelming. Brad will have a hard time raising money going forward because of his low number. It will be up to the national Republicans to funnel money to the local party to make this thing a race."

Donisthorpe also said if Winter falters he could see Griego taking second, but that would mean Marty picked up a bunch of GOP votes and made the 40%. He said he sees Marty at about 43% and expects that's the number he will hit Election Night if the current trend continues. "I dont think he grows a lot from here. What you see is what you generally get with these incumbents," commented the Farmington, NM native as he chugged down a double dose of Starbucks.


Kurt was curt and succinct. The former state rep and network news reporter, now businessman, gives the race to Marty. "I don't think there is really much Brad can do. The Mayor is way ahead, and enough of the undecided should break his way to avoid the run-off." Lohbeck simplified the campaign this way: "Chavez needs to stay out of trouble. That's it," he declared.


The top NM lobbyist who will again join me on Election Night on KANW 89.1 FM for continuos city election coverage, says Mayor Marty has much to be thankful for. "It's pretty good news for the mayor. It absolutely puts this race in Marty's lap to win or lose. His campaign's positive actions or toe stubs will rule the day. Winter's numbers underscore his lackluster campaign. He should be scoring much higher. This should be a wake up call to him. Griego should be somewhat heartened. The mainstream spin has Griego coming in third so second place for him six weeks out could give him a little pop.

"Do no harm" should be Marty's campaign mantra. Griego and Winter have to whack at the Mayor's support. That means negative campaigning and that means a long September for Albuquerque residents," offered Scanland, a Roundhouse regular for two decades now.


While Scanland said the poll was a wake-up call for Winter, Santullo, in the political game for over 30 years and himself a onetime candidate for mayor and top mayoral aide, said it's Mayor Marty who should heed the poll as a wake-up call. "As a Chavez supporter I am concerned. He is just to close for comfort to that 40%. The undecided (31%) is too high. Winter and Griego are dipping their bullets in cyanide and coming for him. He needs to grow that 40%. At this point, I do think it is likely there will be a run-off. This poll showing that he has not ended the race may galvanize the opposition. Expectations were that Marty would be near 50% and it didn't happen. Marty at 40% is vulnerable. He needs to redouble his efforts, spend even more on TV and get his positive image out there," said the longtime talk radio host.


Senator Bingaman's state office director was one of many analysts surprised that the Mayor was not further above the critical 40% level. "But he has high positives across the board and that is going to make it tough for Griego and Winter to drag him down. Marty needs to stay positive as long as he can. Winter and Griego have to do everything right and the mayor just has to stay the course. Terry looks for "independent expenditures," such as those from labor unions, to finance the attacks against the mayor, saying he doesn't think the opposition will be able to raise enough money to be effective. "If those expenditures come it could put them in the race. Without them, it is doubtful." Brunner is in the 40% or bust camp. "There is just too much uncertainty in a run-off. Marty needs to put this one away in the first round," said the sharp-eyed analyst.

Winter & Family
The Alligators Sunday started to outline the future plot lines of the campaigns to come. Some see Winter veering to the right, attacking Marty for being too liberal on key social issues, such as gay rights, that upset bedrock Republican voters. They figure this is now a primary election--that Winter has no chance for first--but he can run second on the strength of the conservatives and force the run-off. The Mayor Marty camp knows it has to keep it positive and avoid some of the missteps that have already occurred. If weird stuff happens in September it will hurt. The mayor is his own campaign adviser and it will be up to him to keep his personal cool and not unleash the attack dogs until absolutely necessary.

The Griego camp is buoyed by the fact that Marty has not put it away. Some of them say this is especially important because the mayor probably spent well north of $200,000 in the last two months and that money did not do the trick. They are also hoping to attract new voters to the polls to vote for the increased minimum wage initative. Those voters should break Griego's way. Other Gators said they felt the Winter number may have been too low in the Journal poll, that not enough GOP voters were sampled. They see Winter at maybe 15%, but still way behind.


The scenarios are there for an upset. They are not highly likely, but they are not highly unlikely either. The huge financial advantage of the incumbent can only be overcome at this late date with the so-called "independent expenditures," (state GOP, labor) and energetic, near flawless campaigns. You must show you are better than your opponent. That is the task that awaits those who claim they can do a better job.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to today's blog. Great stuff and we will keep track of the race for you throughout the campaign. Election Night coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. October 4 on KANW 89.1 FM. Tuesday's blog is going to be a whole lot shorter, but we'll have something for you. Thanks for the company.

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