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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Wilson's Winter Offensive; Dems Scurry To Answer As It Rains Heather Headlines; It's A Blog Special; Indepth, Inside And Only Here 

You might have thought it was October not early February. The NM 1st Congressional district race moved front and center and across the nation Wednesday in the wake of ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson's break with the White House and her call for a full Congressional inquiry into the Bush Administration's domestic eavesdropping program.

Democrats were beside themselves as Wilson garnered national headlines and scored a follow-up coup as the Administration gave a broader accounting of the program to the House Intelligence Committee just hours after Wilson's request.

While Wilson, chair of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, conducted a Washington news conference praising the sudden White House cooperation, her Dem opponent, Attorney General Patricia Madrid, was trying to dampen things down.

“While I’ve been enforcing the law in New Mexico, Rep. Wilson has been sitting in the House Intelligence Committee apparently ignoring abuses of the law until nine months before an election,” slammed Patsy.

But Heather was hearing none of it as she tooted her own horn before the national audience. "I don't think the White House would have made the decision that it did had I not stood up and said, 'You must brief the Intelligence Committee,' she declared. (Complete Wilson statement here)

Perhaps a bit overeager in the national spotlight, Wilson did not mention that several GOP Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have also been putting the heat on the White House.

Still, the somewhat startling Wilson declaration was an aggressive play and made the point that she has accumulated some seniority in her seven years on the Hill.

REACTION POURS IN
Heather
Reaction came from all points of the political spectrum with liberal blogs jumping to welcome Wilson aboard. However, my e-mail revealed Wilson will get at least some wrist-slapping from Bush loyalists.

"Sounds like she's worried about Patsy, huh? Well, she better worry about appearing to becoming a RINO, (Republican In Name Only) to her base constituency. I plan on calling on this and will let you know what she says," penned one upset R.

But where are the unhappy Republicans to go? Into the arms of Dem Madrid? Not likely. But one GOP wag remarked that there is a chance Heather's recent "moderate" streak might keep some of them sitting at home Election Day.

The usual conspiracy theory that this was a put-up job by Wilson and the White House was also trotted out, with the most sinister saying they saw the long arm of White House political guru Karl Rove. The spin being that this was all prearranged to let Heather "pose" as a moderate in our battleground district. But most hardheaded observers were linking her wiretapping announcement with her recent vote against Medicaid cuts and labeling it an ongoing effort to saw the legs off of Madrid's stool.

"She is clearly moving to separate herself from a President whose approval rating is low. The Dems need to nationalize this race and link her to failed national polices. Heather is determined not to sink with that ship," noted a Senior GOP Alligator.

He also added that while Heather is getting her message out that she is not a clone of the White House, it may not be so easy. "It is hard to out Democrat a Democrat. Besides, D's will find a reason to vote against her no matter how many bones she throws at them."

LEAVING THE TRAIN
Patsy
Wilson's disembarkment from the Bush train had the Dems reminding us that she recently said there was no need for the House Intelligence Committee to look in the "rear view mirror" and analyze what went wrong with the bad intelligence that led to the unpopular Iraq War. They want swing voters to look at her overall record not her recent conversions.

But politics can be a short term affair, and top Dem strategists admit that Wilson is making Madrid's job tougher. "She has scored and it is up to the Madrid campaign to respond. They will need to run effective commercials to show her record and not let stand the impression Heather is giving this week," offered a top D who prays daily for a Patsy victory.

The national pundits were also getting in on the action as Wilson's move not only displayed her "gutsiness" as one of her fans e-mailed, but it also reaffirmed that she has, at least for now, a serious race on her hands.

What is really getting the goat of the D's is that Heather is acting like many of them want, giving them her vote or support on several substantive policy issues. If she continues, the urgency of the Madrid campaign could be undermined.

"Right now she is not going to fear alienating voters on the Republican right. She will take care of that later. She is making an early play to take our most effective argument--that she is hardcore Bushie--away from us," said our D campaign expert.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Put it all together--her support of ousted Hispanic UNM President Caldera, her recent vote against the GOP's Medicaid cuts, and now the break with the White House on eavesdropping, and you have to agree Heather is hoping, if not for an early knockout, at least a halt to any early Madrid momentum.

As in sports offense in politics is often the best defense. This week the Heather offense scored. But we are in the opening minutes of the first quarter and Madrid & Company will have their chance on the field in the many months remaining in this premier race of Campaign 06'. Stay tuned.

What do you think? E-mail me your comments and political news and come back again soon for more fair and balanced coverage of Campaign 06'.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
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