Thursday, October 05, 2006

Another 1st CD Stunner: Zogby/Reuters Has Madrid Up by 10; Big Spread Disbelieved, But Not The Momentum; Patsy's Got It; What's It All Mean? Read On 

AG Madrid
More shock waves rolled through the New Mexican political community Wednesday as the Zogby/Reuters poll hit the Worldwide Web showing a startling 10 point lead--50.4% to 40.3%--for Patricia Madrid over ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson. Could that really be? Probably not was the nearly universal answer from the political pros, but nearly all agreed that the survey does confirm that momentum in this campaign is now indisputably with the challenger and that any complacency on the part of the incumbent needs to be ditched fast.

It was the psychological impact of the new poll that was most noticeable. Our email box was flooded as readers alerted us to the survey (thanks to all) with Dems going into a feeding frenzy and R's, already reeling from the House page scandal, astonished that any survey distributed by one of the world's leading news agencies could show such a spread.

The Zogby poll came on the heels of the ABQ Journal weekend survey showing the congressional race a dead heat at 44% each. But pollster Brian Sanderoff said the momentum was with Madrid. Wednesday he told me: "I feel Zogby is picking up momentum regardless of the Foley scandal."

Regardless of the Foley scandal? What happens when that is weaved into the next round of polling?


Zogby has an iffy track record here from 2004 when he utilized Internet surveys to track the presidential race and was all over the map. But this was not an Internet poll; it was a field poll with 500 phone calls into the district. However, Zogby used a random telephone sample that had respondents telling pollsters whether they were registered and likely voters. Sanderoff prescreens for definite voters. That identification process probably explains some of the wide gulf between Madrid and Wilson.

Still, the trend is your friend. The Zogby numbers back up the momentum for the Democratic attorney general picked up by Sanderoff and earlier by Democratic pollster Harry Pavlides. There is simply no denying now that the race is drifting from the toss-up column to "lean Democrat." It may not be there yet, but that is the present direction.

Zogby's poll was taken from September 25 thru October 2. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5%. Even employing the full margin of error, Madrid is ahead 1.1%. And there were plenty of analysts Wednesday saying that's where they really see this exciting contest which could help determine the party that controls the U.S. House. Zogby also polled other key congressional races around the country and found that in 11 of 15 of them the Dem was ahead. He warned of a "Republican freefall," but added that the time is there for the R's to mount a recovery.


Rep. Wilson
The Alligators chipped in and put up the $199 for the critical "cross tabs" of this poll in our continuing effort to bring you comprehensive coverage of perhaps the most important state congressional race in history.

What we found was not good news for Wilson. On the vital question: "Do you think Heather Wilson deserves to be re-elected, or do you think it is time for someone new? Fifty-eight percent said it was time for someone new and only 38.5% said Wilson deserves re-election. Even if the margin of error on that question is the full 4.5%, Wilson remains well below the magic 50% mark.

We jumped immediately to how Heather was doing with the R's. If she was losing them, we thought, that might actually be good news since she would have a good chance at winning them back at the end. But it was not to be. Zogby had her getting 85% of the R's, about where Sanderoff had her. No, the bleeding is clearly with Democrats (82% for Madrid) and Independents, voters that are moving to the Democrat and will be harder to get back. Independents went overwhelmingly for Madrid 64% to Wilson's 23%.

The poll assumes 10% of the electorate will be Independents, but pollsters Sanderoff and Pavlides said it will be more like 15 or 20%. Pavlides' poll also had Madrid leading in this group, but by 10 points less. If there is a flaw in the Zogby poll, besides identifying who is a definite voter, we think it is too big a lead for Madrid among the independents. That number is key in taking her to the 50% mark in the horse race. Still, with momentum continuing for her after the Journal survey, she certainly is moving toward the 50% mark.

While the poll may have been low in weighting the Independents, it was a bit high with Republicans, weighting them at 40% of the survey when other experts say they will comprise about 38% of the electorate.

Zogby will poll one more time in this race, releasing it November 2nd. The Journal is expected to come with another poll October 22. You can go through the age and gender groups to learn more on Zogby's poll and you can refer to my Sunday blog for the PDF of the Journal poll. But the main point remains: For Madrid the trend is her friend.


The utter disarray in the scandal-plagued Republican-led U.S. House means Wilson will get no momentum this week. She will go into the early voting either tied or behind, depending on how you read the polls. The fact is there is not that much longer to go. November 7 is a somewhat perfunctory deadline. Thousands of actual votes will start to be cast following October 10, the date absentee ballots will be mailed out.

I checked on this all-important aspect of Campaign 06' for you with Bernalillo County Elections Administrator Jamie Diaz. He told me that so far he has a list of 13,000 voters who will be mailed absentee ballots on the 10th. Those votes will start coming in a few days later.

Diaz said the lion's share of the mailed out absentees will start coming in after the 16th, with the big rush coming around October 20-23.

"Voters don't mail them back right away. I think they have learned to wait a bit for any further campaign developments because often things have happened that would make a voter change their mind, but they have already voted." He explained.

Early, in-person voting at various sites around the ABQ area begins October 21. That is just over two weeks. Well over 50% of the vote will be cast early, not on November 7th. What this means for Wilson is obvious. She must stop Madrid's "Little Mo" now, and then start building her own head of steam. If Madrid can hold a good chunk of conservative Dems in the early voting--Heather's past key to victory--Wilson would likely lose.


Still, there is a sense of complacency about the Wilson campaign, even denial. One of the GOP Web sites describes the Sanderoff poll citing Madrid's momentum as a big "yawn." Heather supporters also reject criticism for not having her "Another Home for Heather" signs dotting the landscape as they have in past successful campaigns. They say signs don't vote and the focus is on TV. But signs, as anyone who has been playing this game for more than six months knows, are the telltale signs of organization, passion and personal ownership of a candidacy. They help galvanize the all-important GOP base.

The campaign also seems intellectually exhausted, having spent millions attacking Madrid on ethics and still failing to put the race away. Yet, they keep coming with the same TV theme and it is looking tired. If Wilson has a bombshell ready to drop on Madrid, then look out below. The momentum in this thing could go back to her in a snap. But if she is looking for it with what she has up on the air now, opinion I consulted said it ain't gonna happen.


Several political pros urged change. Perhaps they're overreacting, but they have done many, many campaigns, seen the shift of power over the generations and see significant trouble for the incumbent. They do not live in denial. They have had real power and real responsibility in the real world. They have brought home winners, hung with losers and always play for keeps. One of them summed up this way:

"Yes, if the bombshell is there, drop it. If not, then she needs to mix this thing up. Sure, the attacks will continue and they need to, but in a different form. Heather is a classy, intelligent, well-studied congressperson; an image that is nowhere to be seen in the wall-to-wall negativity of this campaign.

"The multimillion dollar mud is piling up on her. She has done a lot for the district. She needs to tell that story, not just build a bigger mud pile, but get her base enthused and get waffling Dems to seriously question abandoning her." Said our campaign vet.

Recognizing your weaknesses and correcting them. Wanting it more than the other guy (or gal). Those are the traits of success and they will help decide this congressional race as they have in countless contests of the past.

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