Tuesday, September 26, 2006

High Drama For Heather; Gambles With New TV Ad; Insiders Say Race Tightening; Karl Rove Coming Here: Journal Poll Sunday, And: "Ninja Cat" Campaigns 

Rep. Wilson
There are more signs that the intense race for the ABQ congressional seat is getting even tighter. GOP Rep. Heather Wilson has hit the TV screens with yet another spot that she asserts shows her "independence" from the unpopular President, insiders report that polls now show the race in the dead heat range and, a reliable source reports, there will be a Saturday ABQ visit to rally the troops on behalf of Heather from Bush political architect Karl Rove.

But the main piece of evidence is her new TV ad on stem cell research. It raised political eyebrows here as it signaled that Wilson apparently believes she now needs to take calculated risks in order to secure a fifth, two year term.

She tells the audience of her summer vote to override President Bush's veto of a bill increasing funding for stem cell research, further proving, she says, that she is not tied to the hip of Bush whose approval rating is only in the high 30's in the moderate district. (The veto was not overridden.)

"This is a risky ad. Stem cell research is fiercely opposed by many religious conservatives. It could turn some of them off to hear her supporting it. Some could even decide to not vote in the race," said one of our veteran Alligators monitoring each and every tick of this race which features Democrat and Attorney General Patricia Madrid as Wilson's rival.

"The ad tells me that we are in a dead heat. Madrid may be even bouncing into the lead in some of the polls. Wilson has not been able to get the yoke of Bush off of her neck. The stem cell spot tries again. It is a tough position for her--she must shed Bush yet hold on to all her Republicans," offered another Alligator.

One campaign veteran pointed out yet another angle. "The stem cell pitch not only is dangerous because it fiddles with some of her R support, but it could also turn off evangelicals and Catholic Hispanics who are Democrats and have voted for her in the past." They analyzed.


It is between the rock and the hard place time for Heather and R's in competitive districts across America as Bush and the no-way-out Iraq war shows no signs of diminishing as key issues in the Nov. 7 election. You can bet the R's are going to do the best they can to change that in the final weeks of the campaign.

"Wilson will likely go to national security. The R's will call it the fight against terrorism, while the Dems will call it fear tactics. But that's where we appear headed. She needs to keep up the ethics attacks on Patsy, but also change the subject off of Iraq and Bush. The terror war has that potential," explained our campaign veteran.

The national security issue is polling better with R's than Dems and it is swing Democrats Wilson needs, along with an enthused Republican base to secure the victory. But she doesn't need all those D's, just some. Maybe she can start her move by grabbing some of them with security.

Karl Rove
Enthusing the base will be one of the jobs (along with raising money) of White House chief political adviser Karl Rove when he drops into River City and visits Wilson campaign headquarters mid-morning on Saturday. Before he gets here, he will no doubt be briefed on the problems R's are having getting motivated, on the Wall Street Journal reporting recently that Heather's ground organization is not what it has been in the past and signs that the ethics attacks against Madrid may have done most of the damage they are going to do.

One sign that the Wilson ground game has not kicked in yet is the signs themselves. Where are they? At this time two years ago, say campaign insiders, yellow yard signs saying, "Another Home for Heather," dotted the landscape of the Big Duke City from the Heights to the Valley. But, so far, it is Madrid's logo popping up all over the place. It is that kind of anecdotal evidence that is giving Madrid's camp ammo to keep their troops fired up.


And even more anticipation brewed Monday as word circulated that pollster Brian Sanderoff is in the field this week and will have the latest ABQ Journal poll this Sunday. His first survey had it for Heather by three points. Wilson has never been tied or behind in an ABQ Journal poll. (Correct me if I am wrong, Brian.) If Madrid has closed the gap even one point there will be joy in the Democratic wards. If she is further back hopes will not fade, but enthusiasm might. If she is tied or in the lead, there will be an absolute feeding frenzy with the D's, who have the voter registration edge, issuing a call to arms and urging all wayward D's to come home to Madrid, even if they are lukewarm.

AG Madrid
Let's bottom line the deal to date. Wilson is showing signs of wear and tear. That Temple Albert debate with Madrid is probably part of it. Whenever a challenger holds their own, as Madrid is widely acknowledged to have done, it can only help. And as we blogged above, Heather just cannot seem to shake Bush and is still playing defense on that key issue.

But an incumbent has many weapons at their disposal, including a superior war chest. Also, incumbents rarely lose. Only two U.S. Reps and two senate incumbents have been defeated in our state since 1970. And Heather Wilson has proved time and again that she surges at the end, after surviving various campaign scares. (The first to email me those defeated, or if we missed any, gets a free lunch.)

Wilson maintains that this campaign is about her independence and it truly is, but not just in her relentless efforts to separate herself from the White House. She truly stands alone in this election year; the top of her ticket is flaccid; the state is led by the most powerful Democratic Governor in state history; she faces an opponent who takes the beating and keeps on ticking and Senator Domenici, who hand-picked Heather for the seat in 1998, can only do so much.

In Election Year 2006 Heather Wilson is on her own in fending off the sharks in the waters. Never has she been surrounded by more of them.


Word came late Monday from KOB-TV confirming our report earlier in the day that chances were vanishing for any live TV debate between Big Bill and GOP contender John Dendahl. Talks for such an event have broken down with the usual fingerpointing accompanying the episode. There will apparently be no face-to-face meeting at a public forum between the two major gubernatorial candidates. And that is a modern New Mexico first.


That race for state land commissioner, one of the few down-ballot races providing any suspense, is a real cat war. First, Dem hopeful Jim Baca trots out "Jerry the Cat," announcing his feline is firmly in his corner, despite allegations that it has been ignored in favor of the Baca dogs, allegations supported when Baca formed a "Bowsers for Baca" group. Then came incumbent GOP land boss Pat Lyons with "Zoe the Cat," who promised to claw Jerry into the pound.

Now that Lyons (lions, cats, get it?) has unloaded negative radio spots against him, Baca is back with more catty chatter. He says a "Ninja Cat" has suddenly shown up at his house (pictured here) to protect Jerry the Cat as the campaign claws come out.

Ninja Cat seems appropriately named. The people variety of Ninja originated from small groups of villages defending themselves against feudal Samurai by using guerilla tactics against a better armed enemy.

If Lyons is anything, he is "better armed" than Baca, holding a war chest north of $500,000, while Baca struggles to reach the $300,000 mark. Now if Ninja Cat knows how to raise money, Zoe and Lyons may really start to see the fur fly. No matter what, we assume Jim and Pat will continue to fight like cats...and dogs.

Speaking of which...Baca is up today with a radio ad answering Lyons' blistering radio attack saying Lyons is the "business agent" for the oil and gas industry. Water seems to be a theme of both hit pieces with Lyons using a hurricane for sound effects and Baca using a toilet bowl sounder to flush Lyons' "credibility" down the toilet. Isn't modern politics inspiring?

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