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Friday, May 26, 2006

A BLOG EXCLUSIVE: President Bush To ABQ For Heather; June Visit Set; He'll Rally Party Faithful & Raise Cash; Why So Early? We Have Details & Analysis 

One of the nation's most closely watched races for the U.S. House of Representatives will get the personal attention of President Bush when he travels to ABQ June 16th to campaign for GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson who is locked in a heated battle with NM Democratic Attorney General Patricia Madrid.

Confirmation of the trip comes from my top political sources, including a Senior Alligator. Big donor NM R's are receiving a copper-colored invitation asking for participation in a $5,000 photo opportunity with the President or attendance at a $1000 a person fundraising reception at which Bush will deliver remarks on behalf of Wilson. (View the invitation here.) Since individuals are limited to giving $4200 for a congressional candidate in the primary and general election, leftover funds will go to the NM GOP campaign committee.

The Prez's visit will come early in the election cycle, nearly five months before the November election. Analysts say the visit will accomplish several goals for Wilson who easily won re-election two years ago, but faces in 06' what even her allies call the sternest test of her political career.

First, they say, the visit will help Wilson nail down hard core Republican voters who are essential to her November victory and who have been seen as straying from the fold as Wilson casts more votes with the Democrats to reinforce her reputation as a "moderate" representative in her majority Democrat district. Second, Bush's unpopularity--he languishes in the low 30's in approval in national polls--will not ignite as much controversy or be as noticeable in June to swing voters as would a visit in the heat of the battle in October. Still, the pictures of Heather and Bush will not warm the hearts of independent voters.

WILL HE RETURN?

Heather
The visit does not mean that Bush will not return again, but it does give Heather insurance with the GOP base that she has embraced Bush whose last bastion of popularity is with registered Republicans. The early visit could also mean avoiding awkward questions about his absence in the fall if she fears Bush's unpopularity and opts not to have him return.

Earlier this year Wilson's campaign conducted a baseline poll on the congressional race. (Confirmed by federal election reports). Results have been tightly held, but one high-level Republican with Washington connections revealed that the poll showed Wilson's support among rank and file Republicans was soft. Any risk of alienating independent and conservative D's is secondary to the absolutely essential task of getting R's to close ranks which is why you will be seeing Air Force One at the ABQ Sunport.

BUSH'S NM HISTORY

The President also visited the state's largest city in 2005 when he conducted a town hall meeting on Social Security at the Kiva Auditorium in downtown Albuquerque, just across the street from the Hyatt Regency hotel where his June 16th visit will take place. (The Prez was also in Rio Rancho in February at Intel to talk about his competitiveness initiative.)

In 2004 Bush carried New Mexico by just a few thousand votes, but he lost the 1st Congressional District, which Wilson represents, by a couple of thousand.

The ABQ congressional contest continues to be featured in the national press as a key race to watch to determine whether Democrats are building momentum to capture a House Majority. Earlier this month we broke the news that Sen. Hillary Clinton will host a June New York City event for Madrid.

The Wilson campaign has been boosted recently by the headline grabbing trial of former NM Treasurer Robert Vigil and references to Madrid's role in investigating alleged corruption in his office. But Republicans, faced with their own widespread corruption allegations, remain uncertain of what voter sentiment will be five months from now. So is everyone else, including the President of the United States.

THE BOTTOM LINES

It was the February sweeps, not November's, in which KOAT-TV came out on top in the 10 p.m news race. And it was NBC that aired the Olympics coverage that month, not ABC.

And in the final numbers, KRQE ended up taking the 10 p.m news crown in the May sweeps with a 10.1 rating. Some of our early Thursday readers got the wrong info. Thanks to the TV mavens for the correction...

I'll have more exclusive political and media news right here next week. Until then, have a great weekend New Mexico.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
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