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Monday, September 25, 2006

Dendahl & Guv: Never The Twain Shall Meet? The Debate Breakdown, Plus: Bush Nephew Is All For One, But Not One For All, And: Yes, We Have No Saguaros 

Something remarkable may occur in the so far quite unremarkable Campaign of 2006. There is a real possibility that Big Bill and his GOP Guv rival, John Dendahl, may never step foot on the same stage together--not on a live TV debate, not on a tape delayed TV debate, not even at interest group forums where hopefuls for the state's top job have traditionally met.

"We have no joint appearances scheduled with him," a spokesman for the Big Bill campaign said of Dendahl. Not one? "Something may come up, but the schedule as it stands now has no such events."

I posed the question after the New Mexican reported (registration required) that the Guv was weighing appearing on one live TV debate. But over the weekend even that prospect dimmed. The Guv's camp nixed the live TV debate and instead offered to appear with Dendahl October 15th at the Congregation Albert, an event scheduled for 11 on a Sunday morning. TV could carry it live or tape delay it, but only if both sides agreed. Because of bickering over the rules for such an encounter, there is a chance the event may not occur at all--not on TV or even as a
debate for those in the hall.

What caught the blog eye was not the no-debate strategy by the Guv's camp--that's to be expected with a 30 point lead--but no joint appearances anywhere? Not even before the farm bureau, the oil and gas association or other traditional venues for a gubernatorial clash?

Maybe something will change, but the temperatures are going to have be turned down before it does. Dendahl, missing in action for weeks now, rose up and said his foe is transforming from an "800 pound gorilla to a 300 pound chicken." Big Bill campaign boss Dave Contarino, responding to Dendahl's' demand that if the candidates do appear together at Temple Albert that they should only be allowed to take notes and not bring any prepared text, declared:

"The Governor has a list of accomplishments 10 miles long. (Dendahl's) background of accomplishments can be written on a blank piece of a notepad."

Does anyone get the idea that these guys really don't like each other?

Dendahl will get some sympathy for forcing the debate issue, but he's not in much of a position to bargain. If he turns down the Temple Albert appearance, he could become the first major party Guv candidate in modern history to not appear with his rival. If he does appear, he may have to agree not to have it televised, but he would still get the opportunity of trying to trip up the Guv. If that occurred he would not need live TV; any event adding even an ounce of drama to this lackluster race would be broadcast so loudly it would wake the bears about to begin their winter hibernation in the Sandia's.

BLOG FLASHBACK

Sparks flew between Big Bill and GOP opponent John Sanchez at the 2002 Congregation Albert Guv forum

NEPHEW NEWS
George P. Bush
Meanwhile, Dendahl didn't get any favors from presidential nephew George P. Bush who flew into ABQ for a Friday fundraiser for GOP secretary of state nominee Vickie Perea. Bush was given the chance on KRQE-TV to endorse other R hopefuls, including Dendahl, but demurred. The son of Florida Governor Jeb Bush explained that the "party invited me" to campaign on Perea's behalf and that he goes "where ever they want me."

Dendahl might have pined for a presidential nephew endorsement seeing how the polls show his campaign has yet to consolidate the GOP base, but ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson was probably sighing in relief that she was not singled out for a blessing by a Bush. The Prez's unpopularity is a chief concern of Wilson who has not been able to close the deal against Dem hopeful Patricia Madrid who is playing on significant anti-Bush sentiment in the ABQ district.

MARY CHECKMATES VICKIE


Vickie Perea made a game effort to corner her Dem secretary of state opponent Friday, but the effort was for naught. Vickie emphatically stated her support for a photo voter ID requirement in the state, apparently expecting Bernalillo County Clerk Herrera to take the opposite tack. But Mary hopped on Vickie's ID bandwagon saying she too was in favor, although most legislative Dems are not on board. Was Herrera thinking this thing is going nowhere in Santa Fe and it was safe to go for it on the trail? Or does she disagree with NM as well as congressional Dems who voted against a similar national measure last week?

Whatever the case, it was another example of Herrera's independent streak and a reason she remains a heavy favorite to take over as the state's chief elections officer, not to mention that that no R has prevailed for the post in a gazillion years. Last year Herrera enraged liberal Dems by initially opposing the all-paper ballot system the Legislature has approved and which takes effect this election. On that one, Herrera now says she supports the all-paper system.

Perea has raised a couple of hundred thousand bucks and will hit the mailboxes heavy. The Republican National Committee, as again witnessed by the nephew Bush visit, has singled her out for support, hoping to take over the office which is important in a swing Presidential state. But the focus on Perea has been questioned by strategists who see the state auditor and treasurer's jobs as more likely pick-ups for the R's in a scandal plagued year. If Vickie wins, the naysayers will eat crow, but if she goes down don't be surprised to see the RNC and the state party questioned over its choice of direction.

YES, WE HAVE NO SAGUAROS

I thought the offending Saguaros were all gone, but there they were on a Saturday night TV spot. The Saguaros, in case you missed it, had the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee running for cover and into the TV editing room when their spot attacking Rep. Wilson was dotted with Saguaros in the background. Trouble is the Saguaro is native to Arizona, but not NM. The DCCC moved to remove the offending plant, but it must have missed KASA-TV which aired the politically incorrect ad on its 9 p.m. Saturday news. (When it aired on KOB-TV at 10 p.m. the Saguaros were gone.)

The incident did gave the campaign spinners a chance to use humor for a change, instead of borderline hate. The DCCC spokeswoman chimed in: "Unlike George Bush and Heather Wilson, the cactus had an exit strategy."

Yeah, but based on the KASA incident, it seems to be having as hard of a time getting out of New Mexico as Bush is in Iraq.

A spokesman for Rep. Wilson jabbed: "Patsy's liberal supporters found themselves in a prickly situation with a commercial that is still wrong."

Right. But is that anywhere as "prickly" a situation as a four-term House member not being able to close out a race with just weeks to go?

Maybe it was fortunate that the DCCC made their minor screw-up early in the game. Remember October 2004? I sure do. That's when the national Dems came with a disastrous spot putting the faces of Osama Bin Laden and Heather together, blowing any chance they had. Now that was a prickly situation.

THE POLL WATCH

The Survey USA poll is the Rodney Dangerfield of its ilk--it doesn't get any respect. The poll, conducted by automatic phone calling, not person-to-person, came out Friday on KOB-TV. But the political pros say be cautious. So do major news organizations like the Associated Press which does not report the Survy USA results as it does other polls. For the record, the numbers had Wilson at 51%, Madrid at 46% and undecided at 3%. Heather ahead is a reasonable conclusion, but over 50% and hardly any undecided? Not likely. And that is the peril of automatic phone polls. But the earth won't freeze over because of it and the survey, despite its shortcomings, does give a reasonable look at the big trends in the races and therefore is worth tracking.

BOTTOM LINES

Sen. Sanchez
It is State Senator Bernadette Sanchez (D-ABQ), not Chavez as we erred in our blog last week on Sen. Tsosie. Between looking at the service record of the late U.S. Senator Dennis Chavez for a report on Senator Bingaman, and reading ABQ Mayor Chavez's latest on the ABQ school bond election, we seemed to have had a lot of Chavez on our mind...

News, comments, corrections? Send them from the email link at the top of the page. Back tomorrow with more from the home of Campaign 06' and the fascinating world of New Mexico politics. Hope you can be here.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
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