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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Kickin' Up The Trail Dust: The Latest From The Pete, Heather & Patsy Camps, Plus: Insider News From All Around, And: Carla Aragon For Congress? 

Pete Domenici has seen his Republican Party have better times. Much better. But the state's senior senator has been as reliable as an atomic clock when it comes to showing up in the final days of a major campaign. There was a certain poignancy to his Wednesday ABQ news conference where he went before cameras to try to drum up some attention for the R's.

Pete is a reassuring symbol to the faithful, but like the passengers on the Titanic who grabbed at the priest's robes as the ship sank, he can only console, not rescue anyone from the wall of water that seems to be forming on the shores of America and which could birth a Democratic Tidal Wave Tuesday Night.

It's nothing Pete hasn't seen before. He surfed the waves of 74' and 94' and he's ridden strong torrents of Democratic water in his home state since 72'. I remember well the gubernatorial campaign of 1982 when the victory of Dem Toney Anaya was inevitable. Pete appeared at the Roundhouse in the final days with the R nominee, John Irick, and insisted, in the face of credulity, that John could pull it out. He has always kept the home fires burning, and the turnout drum beating.

The old sea captain still has a stomach for the rough seas, but this year he sails alone.

PREDICTING PETE

The analysts and Alligators are closely monitoring the election for its impact on Pete's fortunes. He long ago threw in the towel on the Guv and senate contests, but holds hope for GOP land commissioner Pat Lyons and maybe one more of the down-ballot races. He worked with the Republican National Committee to put the attorney general and secretary of state's contests on the radar. Polling shows likely Dem wins.

Republicans, and not a few Democrats, are concerned that if the senate goes Dem Tuesday night, Domenici, who has super-seniority and brings billions into the state, may consider not seeking re-election in 08.' Why become a renter when you've been a landlord, goes the reasoning.

Domenici has not concealed his desire for Heather Wilson to take over his seat and continue his legacy, but if Wilson loses her ABQ congressional seat, it will crush that dream and increase pressure on Pete not to abandon a run for an unprecedented seventh six year term.

Domenici would lose his energy committee chairmanship to fellow NM Senator Bingaman if the Dems secure the senate. They have done that switch once before, but speculators wonder if it would have a more deflating impact on Pete if it happened again.

Another issue facing the senator is the divisions in the state GOP and whether he moves to clean up the mess before he launches any re-election drive. He has played both sides of the feud, but if the party suffers a sweeping NM defeat Tuesday, he may finally have to assert direct leadership or else have a cloud hanging over his own campaign.

PETE AND BILL

There is also the Big Bill factor. As we reported in June, the Guv is serious about finding a candidate to run against Pete because he believes the move to dump J.R. Damron as the GOP Guv nominee and replace him with John Dendahl came out of Pete's office.

As a reminder that the hard feelings are still there, sources close to Big Bill are touting a recent Survey USA poll that shows Richardson finally surpassing Domenici in a poll ranking popularity. It shows Domenici is at 61%, down from 66% last month, his lowest since June 05'. Richardson is at 69% this month, unchanged from last month and an all-time high.

"We are gleeful about it," trumpeted a Big Bill acolyte.

New Mexico has a pretty good deal with a powerful Dem Governor and a powerful GOP U.S. Senator. It gives us entree to whatever administration is in power and ensures that we get our fair share--or more if we can swing it. In that regard, the clash between the political titans is not good. But this is a showdown that has been brewing for years. Whether it is averted or goes forward is one of the most pressing political questions facing the state.

ALL HEATHER, ALL PATSY, ALL THE TIME
Laura Bush
There's no give in the latest Zogby/Reuters poll on the Heather-Patsy down-to-the-wire fight for the ABQ congressional seat. While Zogby has Madrid at 53% to incumbent Heather's 44%--a big nine point lead--an insider tracking poll has Madrid leading by a mere point and a half and that's where most seasoned observers see the contest with the race nearing its final 100 hours. The early October Zogby had it for Madrid 50.4% to 40.3%. The latest one was taken Oct. 24 thru Oct 29. Brian Sanderoff comes with the final ABQ Journal poll Sunday.

Laura and Bill fans are gushing over the upcoming visits of the First lady and ex-Prez. Clinton appears tonight for Patsy; Friday it's Laura Bush for Heather, we think. Its' pretty easy to see Clinton, but KRQE-TV's Dick Knipfing reported last night that if you are want to see Laura you will be "expected" to volunteer for the state GOP.

The Wilson campaign said Bush is here to rally volunteers, not specifically for Heather. Got that? Is this another six degrees of separation Heather is trying to put between herself and anything Bush? Got me. But it all sounds pretty complicated if the goal is to get people excited about voting for you. If the goal is to avoid having the First Lady face a bunch of anti-war protesters, it probably works.

MORE TRAIL NEWS

Here is a good take on the closing media strategies of our two gals from James Brosnan of the ABQ Tribune D.C. bureau.

The weather forecast for Election Day remains as iffy as the outcome of the congressional race with some showers currently forecast for Monday and Tuesday in ABQ and the possibility of a storm of as yet undetermined intensity possible in the Democratic north. We'll keep on the weather watch till E-Day.

The latest in-person early voting stats in big Bernalillo county has the Dems outperforming the R's. 10,882 D's have stood in line--some of them long ones--to cast their paper ballots. 7,782 R's and 2,381 independents and others have done the same. And here is a good, nonpartisan take on how that absentee ballot war is playing out. You can check my Wednesday blog for the latest absentee stats.

TAKING NOTE...

Death has called Eddie Benavidez, a well-known ABQ attorney and, in the words of his son, Javier, "a rare, old school Republican Hispanic." Among his many accomplishments, Eddie was a founder and president of the NM Hispanic Bar Association and served on the National Board of Directors of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

"He was a proud social justice oriented attorney, born and raised in New Mexico who loved his community," said Javier who works on the ABQ city council staff.

Edward Benavidez died of heart failure Monday night. He was only 58.

ONE FOR VICKIE


Under the headline, "You Take It Where You Can Get It," GOP secretary of state candidate Vickie Perea is pleased to have received the editorial board endorsement of the Farmington Daily Times. The endorsement cites Perea's interest in fixing the problems that have plagued New Mexico's election system.

Vickie had been getting shut out in the newspaper endorsement war with Dem Mary Herrera getting just about all of them.

SOME HUMOR PLEASE

Here is one of my favorite endorsements of the season. It comes from syndicated columnist Harold Morgan writing on the race for land commission between Dem Pat Baca and incumbent Pat Lyons: "Jim Baca is both a radical environmentalist and humorless." Says Harold.

Maybe Harold has a point. After all the negative campaigning, if a candidate can't make you laugh, give him the thumbs down. Hear that Baca? Brush up those one liners.

CARLA FOR CONGRESS?

Harold isn't the only one who has had it with the up-to-the-eyeballs negative campaign. "Inside the Capitol" columnist Jay Miller thinks those of us here in River City should cast our vote for KOB-TV anchorwoman Carla Aragon. Jay says he watched the TV debate between Wilson-Madrid and "the only times I felt truly comfortable were during the questions from Aragon, who is genuinely nice. It got me to thinking how much more I would like her to be representing NM in Washington."

Jay, I think Carla would make a fine congressperson too. But she'll never make it. She smiles at her guests, makes the audience feel comfortable and asks simple, direct questions.

Here is the attack ad columnist Ned Cantwell has ready to go:

"Carla Aragon--She smiles too much, panders to the electorate and can't ask irrelevant questions.

Carla Aragon--She'll get voters interested. Do we really need that?

This message paid for by Cynthia Izaguirre and Erika Ruiz."

We're with you for the stretch, blogging it straight thru Election Day and into the wee hours of November 8. Also, the KANW 89.1 FM Election Eve Special at 5 p.m. Monday and Election Night coverage starting at 6:30 and going all night long. Photog Mark Bralley has given up on Star-Trek re-runs and is on the trail with me and will have a report from the Clinton and Bush events. Well, that will probably be other-worldly too.

Join me here tomorrow and drop an email with your latest campaign news.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
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