Monday, August 14, 2006
The Pounding Of Patsy: More Is On The Way As Heather Seeks To Stop The Wave; Our Exclusive And Updated Analysis Of The 06' Race To Watch
We've only just begun. That's the word from the GOP camp where insiders report NM attorney general and ABQ Dem congressional candidate Patricia Madrid will come under renewed fire over her job performance from Rep. Heather Wilson, and soon.
The plan of attack, according to our sources, will be to delve further into Madrid's eight year record as AG, perhaps using everyday citizens who have had contact with the office and had "unsatisfactory" experiences. The aim is to further call into question her effectiveness in the job that has provided her a gateway to national political power.
Wilson, seeking a fifth two year term in the U.S. House, has been relentless in accusing Madrid of negligence for allegedly not doing enough to investigate corruption charges against ex-Treasurers Vigil and Montoya. But there's only so much milk that cow can give, and while it may be scoring some points, Madrid's statewide stature is such that the drumbeat of negativity will have to be continued and broadened if Heather is to get to October with a lead big enough to protect her from a potential Democratic tidal wave.
Meanwhile, Dems see the "slash and burn" tactics, so effective for the GOP in recent years, as being engineered by White House political strategist Karl Rove who earlier this year gave up his domestic policy role to concentrate on the mid-term elections. They claim he is directly engaged in the Wilson-Madrid battle. That may draw a big "duh?" from most observers who fully expected Rove to take a hand in the dozen or so key congressional races.
Strategists say the problem for Wilson is the ample ore to be mined on the issues front--the no-end-in-sight Iraq war, the full-of-holes prescription drug program, her close ties to the unpopular President and those sky-high-won't-come-down gasoline prices. The one wild card out there, as recently demonstrated, is the terrorist threat; an issue that has broken for the R's in the past, but whether it will again is not clear-cut. Voters could be more weary, than fearful.
The hope for Wilson as she digs deeper under Madrid's skin is that her foe will not be standing to take those issues to her by the time voters are fully engaged, thus the escalating August attacks coming soon to a TV screen near you.
But the Madrid campaign is doing things previous challengers have failed to do, such as quietly putting together an extensive field operation replete with door knocking and phone calling. They are also aggressively answering each Heather charge quickly. Interestingly, R sources say the state GOP has not been having much luck attracting volunteers to hit the phones for Heather, with one of the reasons being that "not many Republicans see Madrid as much of a threat." But Wilson is anything but complacent and, as in campaigns past, will take responsibility for her own get-out-the-vote effort.
There is some squeamishness among the Dems who have never held the ABQ seat since its creation in 68', with the most vocal of them calling for all-out war now against the favored incumbent to put her on the defensive before it is too late. (Madrid is inching in that direction with her latest ad tying Heather into Big Oil.) Others are less concerned, saying the chief hope to take the seat is a national sweep by the Dems and that voter angst will come into full focus in October and nothing can stop it.
ETHICAL BLACK HOLE?
There is a case to be made for the more sanguine D's. Ethics has been a big loser recently in NM politics. Take, for example, the whipping ABQ Mayor Chavez took over his ABQPAC last year. It turned out be more like a lash with a wet noodle, as he scored the biggest victory in city history. And then there's the ethical drumbeat on Big Bill, raising serious questions about the overlap of campaign contributions and public policy, yet his approval ratings remain as high as ever. And Madrid herself was scathingly scored over ethics in 02' by tough R Rob Perry in her AG re-election bid, but went on to win in a landslide.
The last New Mexico campaign to turn on ethics was the 02' race for land commissioner when R Pat Lyons won after mailing out a flyer of a mug shot of his opponent who had been busted several times for DWI, had a long record of controversial action and who had lost support among his own party.
R's point out Madrid barely eked out victory against current U.S. Attorney David Iglesias in 98' when ethics was also on the table and still believe they can renew those initial doubts.
But this is an era when many voters believe "both sides do it" and many of them quickly move on to issues that concern their daily lives, unless a candidate is caught with his or her hand in the till. Still, some observers contend there is a racial distinction in New Mexico; that ethics allegations against a Hispanic Democrat, like it or not, are more readily believed than those against an Anglo contender.
The chief allegation against Madrid--that she failed to answer a letter from other government officials seeking a probe of the Treasurer--speaks of negligence, but appears lonely against her full record as attorney general. That's why Heather apparently will be coming with more specific examples of what she claims to be the AG's poor performance, before specific attacks on issues.
The last thing the GOP wants to do this year is to conduct a campaign on the issues as the polls put them on the opposite side of a disgruntled electorate.
And there is the matter of Wilson's ethics, too. To neutralize her, Democratic strategists will work to draw direct lines between her millions in contributions and specific congressional votes, not the sexiest material in the world but, they argue, worse than what Madrid is accused of in the letter incident and an issue they assert the press has curiously shied away from, except in the case of Big Bill.
MY BOTTOM LINES
We don't expect any NM public polling on the Madrid-Wilson contest until sometime in early September when the ABQ Journal will have its first survey. As for TV debates, media insiders report we could get our first one sometime in mid-September on CBS affiliate KRQE-TV where the candidates have been offered a weeknight prime time spot. KOAT-TV and the ABQ Journal have proposed a debate for October which would also be broadcast on ABQ public radio station KANW 89.1 FM.
Whether the Wilson-Madrid face-off turns into the real deal, or turns into another
Heather tease remains up in the air. But one candidate who has already tested the waters this year and is close to the voters' mood says he believes the contest is a "51% to 49% race, with either of them taking it." That word from unsuccessful Dem attorney general candidate Geno Zamora who also told me over a cup of Starbucks that he is staying active and does not want to "fade from the political scene." Few do, Geno, despite what it takes to stay there.
Thanks to veteran ABQ photographer and political junkie Mark Bralley (and retired cop) for today's shot of Patricia Madrid in campaign mode at the NM State Fairgrounds. (Or is it Expo Grounds?) Mark has signed up as our campaign photog and we look forward to more of his action pics as we work to bring the feel and look of Campaign 06' directly to your desktop.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
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