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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Armijo Lawyering Up; Sources Say Court Challenge To Stay On Ballot Coming; Plus: Should R's Re-Focus? And: The Blogs And The Papers 

Supemes To Get Case?
Jeff Armijo wants his day in court, and that day could come as soon as today, according to sources close to the Jeff camp. The Dem state auditor hopeful has been the object of snickers and derision for his waffling ways, first getting out of the race and then saying he's back in. But legal and political experts aren't laughing at his apparent court challenge. The consensus I'm picking up is that he has a decent shot at overturning Tuesday's decision by the secretary of state to deny him a place on the November 7 ballot.

"There is a long history of candidates withdrawing by letters directly to the secretary. I would expect that history to be presented in any court challenge, and it may be one of Armijo's strongest arguments," analyzed ABQ attorney Pat Rogers, a former counsel to the NM GOP who himself has a long history of battling election access questions.

As a Republican, it could be argued Rogers would love nothing better than to see Armijo, facing allegations of sexual misconduct in two separate incidents, stay in the game and embarrass the Dems, but the analysis across the aisle was similar. Two attorneys for Dem ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez are also asserting, according to Ken, that they too think that Armijo's news release abandoning his candidacy on August 29 is not a legal withdrawal. Sanchez phoned in to report that based on his legal advice, he will not seek the auditor nomination at that special meeting of the Dem State Central Committee Saturday. That leaves Wagon Mound freshman State Rep. Hector Balderas, 33, as the leading possibility to replace Jeff.

Armijo can't rule out going for the Dem Central's nod. If he can get a decision on his case by Saturday, and if he were to lose, he would then have the option of competing with Hector. His chances would be poor, but many old timers populate the 360 member body and Armijo might generate more support than one would expect.

BACK ON THE COURT BEAT


"District court is the first stop. After that, the case would go to the State Supreme Court as either side could appeal any ruling," explained lawyer Rogers of an ARmijo challenge. The five members of the high court are all Dems, so any ruling would be subjected to intense political as well as legal scrutiny.

The haphazard way the secretary of state was "formally" informed of Armijo's withdrawal--a fax of his news release from the Governor's office, is a first. Secretary Rebecca Vigil-Giron maintains that the release is "sufficient evidence" for her to declare a vacancy and allow the Dem Central Committee to name a replacement.

But Vigil-Giron's office, whose views are being supported by the attorney general, has no other example of this kind of withdrawal being executed. It appears all of them have been done by letter or a direct phone call to the secretary.

Jeff reversed his Aug. 29 withdrawal at a late afternoon news conference Tuesday, setting off alarms at the upper echelons of the NM Dem Party, but many neutral observers are now concerned about the long-term consequences of the confusing withdrawal rules and welcome a court determination. The secretary of state's office is a political position, and absent any explicit legal instructions, his or her power remains unchecked. That is especially troubling when a candidate has already been confirmed the nominee by voters, as Armijo was when he won the June primary election.

IT'S NOT ALL ARMIJO

Armijo may be a deeply flawed candidate; he may cause damage to the Democratic ticket; his candidacy may lead to a Republican takeover of the auditor's office, but we have a Supreme Court to not only render judgments that bring order to present chaos, but to issue rulings that prevent future chaos. Whether Armijo is eventually allowed on the ballot or not, the Legislature, after the courts make sense of this, will have a chance to rectify the outcome. They have clearly left a gaping hole in the law.

All this brings us back to the responsibility of he parties to better vet their candidates. Armijo's candidacy was the subject of endless concern long before the sexual allegations developed. The party and its leadership could have done something about it, but chose not to. And it's not as if they did not have an example to go by. ex-Treasurer Robert Vigil was a candidate four years ago who also gave fits to the Dems, but those concerns were set aside and look what you have today.

The best outcome for the D's would be the failure of any court challenge by Armijo, but the best outcome for Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico is a well-reasoned court decision that explains just what the rules are today and provides clear direction to lawmakers on what they need to do to get this derailed section of our election code back on track.

GOP GRUMBLING

It's not just the Dems having trouble with the auditor spot. Some R' s are grumbling that the state party seems more concerned with investing in a long shot takeover of the secretary of state's office which the Dems have held uninterrupted since 1929. Party support has poured into the campaign or R contender Vickie Perea, leaving her with as much as $150,000. But R auditor candidate Lorenzo Garcia and R Demesia Padilla are not getting the same kind of love. Garcia has just ten grand in his bank account. Padilla has hit the $100,000 mark, but largely through her own efforts. Disgruntled R's think it's time to switch focus and challenge the Dems hold on the offices that current events give them a better chance of contesting.

If you look at this from the neutral corner, you might agree. Corruption is caused, in part, by a lack of competition. The R's are railing about the shenanigans in Santa Fe, but will their campaign strategy for the important statewide financial offices match their rhetoric and hyperbolic Web sites? It's a fair question at a pivotal moment in state history.

CAN'T WE ALL GET ALONG?

ABQ Trib political reporter Kate Nash recently tackled the issue of blogs and whether they compete with the "mainstream" media. I think she came up with the right answer. Here are some excerpts.

SANTA FE - I might as well just go ahead and set my alarm clock to blast me awake the moment Joe Monahan posts his dispatches online. Because invariably, in the next few hours, I know I'm going to hear, "Did you see Monahan's blog today?"

Indeed, it seems that's a question that frequently gets the mornings started here in the Capitol press room among us political reporters...The blogs are here to stay. And they're changing the way we cover politics--in general, I'd say, for the better.

Although not everything on a blog is attributed to a person with a name, the information is usually a thread that's got something to it. And that's a place for reporters to start.

Monahan said his blog is "the front page, the entertainment page, the sports page and the editorial page all rolled into one."

In part because bloggers don't have to back up or confirm information the way traditional reporters do, there's a better chance we'll see good stuff on blogs from people who prefer not to be named.

Monahan, a former radio and newspaper reporter, has 35 years of New Mexico residency under his cap...and is a registered independent.

While some professorial types might worry bloggers will replace newspapers, I'm not worried. They aren't the competition. But they keep us on our toes, tipping us off to other stories we ought to be looking at--especially during election season.


Some good points there. And it's hard to see how most of the blogs could exist without the newspapers and their full-time staffs providing endless political fodder.

I will update events on the Armijo case and other breaking political news from now through the weekend, so don't touch that dial.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Dysfunctional Democrats: Chaos Erupts As Armijo Re-enters Auditor Race; Party Moves To Cut Him Off, But Courts Could Decide; It's A Blogger's Paradise 

If there is a definition of a "Bloggers Paradise" Tuesday September 5, 2006 had to be that day. But for the New Mexico Democratic Party it will likely be remembered as "The Day from Hell."

Never mind the opening day of the re-trial of ex-Dem Treasurer Robert Vigil on corruption charges whose new twists and turns rivaled the spectacle of Katie Couric debuting as anchor of the CBS Evening News. Even "The Re-trial of the Decade" couldn't compete with what unfolded under finally rain-free skies accompanied by lukewarm temperatures at an ABQ NE Heights park.

Jeff Armijo made his stand, rebuking his August 29th withdrawal as the Democratic nominee for state auditor and defiantly declared he is back in the race, and if that makes a "select few politicians nervous, so be it."

Well, it wasn't a select few that broke out in hives upon hearing the news flashes in the minutes following Jeff's 4:45 p.m. announcement. It was the entire Democratic leadership structure and its statewide candidates. The statement was a brief three minutes, but Jeff smoothly managed to get off his money line: "I am a victim of a horrible political scheme." He exclaimed.

Hey, Jeff. You're not alone, the entire state has felt that way for decades.

While Jeff pointed out the nervousness of his fellow Dems, he too appeared jumpy, bouncing back and forth and repeatedly deflecting inquiries with "no comment." But there was plenty of comment from the powers that be, including the NM secretary of state and the attorney general's office, both occupied by Democrats.

REVERSING THE REVERSAL

Moving to avert a candidacy marred by two separate allegations of sexual misconduct and which Armijo was supposedly persuaded to abandon after meeting with Big Bill, the secretary and AG, along with NM Dem Chairman John Wertheim, called out in unison: "We heard you the first time, Jeff. They claimed Armijo, who made his announcement just fifteen minutes before the deadline for a candidate to withdraw, could not backtrack, that the press release he issued following his Big Bill sit-down was a legal abandonment of his auditor bid and there was no turning back the clock.

"No matter what Jeff Armijo says or does, he already officially withdrew his name for State Auditor a week ago. His actions on that day created a vacancy on the General Election ballot."

So declared Chair Wertheim, or maybe we should say so "wished" chairman Wertheim, as the issue may be headed to court if Jeff's Tuesday stand-up in the park turns out not to be his last stand.

With that in mind, the chairman baited a trap he hopes Armijo will bite on:

"Although I am personally disappointed that Jeff has gone back on his word, officially, he is welcome to go before our State Central Committee on September 9th just like the other candidates vying to fill this vacancy, and attempt to get his name back on the ballot."

Of course, if Jeff enters the auditor race at the Central Committee it would be an admission that there is indeed a vacancy in the auditor position, detracting from a court claim that he never really withdrew.

No one was calling Wertheim clever for this maneuver, but neither was anyone overestimating the emotional tranquility of Armijo whose political behavior is as predictable as a Florida vote count.

BILL'S DIVORCE DECREE


Meanwhile, up where all family arguments end, and often begin, Big Bill, according to my insiders, was preparing to depart the Land of Disenchantment for yet another diplomatic venture, This time for far away Sudan where a native New Mexican working for a Chicago newspaper was being held hostage. He probably wishes he could take Jeff with him and parachute him into Darfur. Instead, Bill had his spinners issue this Armijo divorce decree:

"The Governor is very disappointed that Mr. Armijo is attempting to go back on his word and selfishly put himself before the Democratic Party.

"The Governor agrees with the legal position of the Democratic Party Chairman, who is moving forward and asking the State Central Committee to select a replacement candidate who is responsible and committed to running a campaign based on the highest ethical standards."

Come back from Sudan soon, Guv. The party is just getting started.

LET'S PARTY

That "party" will be the aforementioned Saturday Central Committee confab at which 360 top Dems from all of our fretting Four Corners will gather to name Armijo's replacement. State Rep. Hector Balderas of Wagon Mound, who has been in the race since Jeff said he was getting out, was holed up in a friend's law office frantically making calls to committee members, hoping to create an air of inevitability. Depending on who was counting, he had lined up at least 65 and maybe 90 votes.

While Hector was hectoring his fellow Dems, intrigue surrounded ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez who was also doing the ring-a-ding thing over the weekend, but gave his fingers a rest Tuesday to talk with none other than Jeff Armijo's dad and also with cousin Marty. That would be ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez, cousin to Jeff. What were they brewing up? According to His Honor, relaying word through a Dem operative, he "fully backed the Governor" and had urged Jeff to stay out of the race.

I won't go into the Twilight Zone theories floating around about that little chatfest for fear of again being dubbed "genetically conspiratorial" by my old friend Bruce Daniels at the ABQ Journal who, by the way, is right on the mark. Suffice it to say that by late evening whatever personal political gain was to be had by jiggling around with Jeff's fortunes was dissipating and a unified front seemed to be developing that Balderas had to be the man, or else there might not be any plan. Sanchez phoned in today to say he is abandoning his candidacy, citing legal advice from his two personal attorneys who he said told him: "There is no vacancy." Sanchez added he is not supporting anyone for the Dem nod.


But all was not unity in the Armijo camp, with one of his in-the-know sympathizers reporting that Jeff's lawyer was "livid." The second allegation of sexual misconduct is under review by Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenberg and if official charges do result, broadcasting them on a three network pre-game show was not the way to obtain the best legal outcome.

The perky DA, also a Democrat, and an expert at under-the-radar operations, was having her cover busted by some Armijo advocates who questioned why she could not quickly resolve what they say is a simple "he said, she said" case. "Indict or a dismiss!" They cried.

Well, they say a DA can indict a ham sandwich, but this one is filled with political indigestion.

FEELING THE HEAT

After using up most of my cell phone minutes, I decided to get reckless and go over the limit and fired a heat-seeking missile at Dem Land Commissioner candidate Jim Baca. After all, if an Armijo candidacy somehow arises, it would be Jim B., involved in the tightest statewide contest with R Pat Lyons, who might be in the most ticklish situation.

"To disavow or not to disavow." That was my question. Not worthy of Shakespeare, but fitting enough for my purposes.

"I believe Jeff has withdrawn from the race and it is up to the Central Committee to name a replacement," Baca said, practically parsing every syllable.

Would you support Armijo if he did make it on the ballot? "I'm not ready to go there yet." He replied. I bet. He's probably more prepared to go to the Sudan with Big Bill.

Baca was downright chirpy compared to a top Dem operative who answered my call in a forlorn voice and softly uttered: "I am not prepared to talk with you, Joe. I'm too depressed. But the political instinct is irrepressible and after promising free Prozac I had him handicapping the probable outcome of Jeff's Mess.

"Balderas is the likely nominee. If Jeff chose to run, he would get support from Socorro (where he has many family members) and pockets of Valencia county. Balderas must get proxy votes from around the state because a lot of people will not travel to ABQ for the committee meeting."

But, as we said a thousand words or so ago, that may be academic since Armijo would likely be losing his legal argument if he agreed his withdrawal was really a withdrawal and decided to dance at Central.

Another operative, more perplexed than depressed, was more confident. "Keep in mind that the vote at the committee is an open vote, not a secret ballot. There may be some brave talk from Jeff's supporters now, but how many of them are going to go public and vote for him? He's done," declared the D.

SUING WITH THE SUPREMES


It ain't over until the fat lady sings or, in this case, until Jeff throws in the towel and declares he will not bring a lawsuit to stop a new nominee from going on the ballot; a suit that would likely go directly to the Supremes. No, not Diana Ross and the gals, but the NM State Supreme Court. There, things could get tricky.

Doesn't a candidate have to file a document directly with the secretary of state to make an "official" withdrawal? When did a press release faxed over to Secretary Rebecca Vigil-Giron by the Guv's office (as happened in this case) become a binding legal notification? And, can't a guy change his mind?

Whatever the ultimate outcome of the Armijo candidacy, the Democrats are going to do their best to conduct a separation operation. It may be like one of those Siamese Twins deals; the separating goes alright, but some of the parts won't be working as well as they used to. The lengthy procedure is already underway with the Big Bill and Wertheim statements. Up next could be a resolution by the Central Committee urging Jeff to accept the new nominee; that they will not support his candidacy if one develops, and that he should really just go home and book himself a long cruise courtesy of the travel agency he owns.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Yep, you finally reached the bottom of this thing. If you are feeling weak, feel free to take some vitamins. But what about the 21 year old woman who is making sexual misconduct allegations, the August 3 charge that Armijo says is part of a "horrible political scheme?" My sources tell me she was a student at TV-I (Central New Mexico College) and did campaign volunteer campaign work at Armijo's home where she charges she was pinned to the floor and touched improperly by the political hopeful. Armijo is an elected member of the governing board of the college. His people say the intern once worked with another politico who has an axe to grind with Jeff, thus "the horrible political scheme."

And what about Republican auditor nominee Lorenzo Garcia. He doesn't really have to say anything, just wait like a vulture in a pinon tree, hoping against hope that Jeff likes hanging out with lawyers.

No, I don't really know if vultures hang out in pinon trees. But after this particular Tuesday in La Politica, I have suspended all disbelief. How else to prepare for whatever comes next?

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Campaign 06' Kicks Off; R's Fret Over Possible Dem State Sweep, Plus: Armijo's Withdrawal; Dems Get Nervous; Could He Stay In? 

Dendahl
Despite an epic ethics scandal that will again move into the limelight today, and rapidly increasing spending that has raised concern over our state's future economic health, Mr. & Mrs. New Mexico appear to be in no mood to shake up the political landscape. In fact, Alligators on both sides of the aisle are saying if the election were held today the most likely outcome would be a Democratic sweep of all statewide offices.

The latest evidence that the ethics card may turn out to be a joker comes in the ABQ Journal poll on the Governor's race in which Big Bill is getting 57% support, compared to R John Dendahl's 28%. This follows blow out re-elect numbers for Dem Senator Bingaman and a 14 point lead (40-26) for Dem James Lewis over Demesia Padilla in the Treasurer race, the one contest you would think the R's would be best positioned for after the historic scandal. The only good news for the R's is that there is time, but not much. Early voting starts Oct. 10.

Against this backdrop we called one of our veteran R blog analysts, Greg Payne, to frame Campaign 06' from his perspective. The former state legislator, ABQ city councilor, consultant to Gary Johnson's 98' Guv campaign, as well as a bevy of local contests, had a crystal clear crystal ball in 04' when he called all the major races on this blog and nailed the Electoral College Prez vote. But what has he done for us lately? Let's put him to work.

"The Governor's race is an uphill battle for Dendahl, but we all knew that. The concern now is the impact on the down-ballot races, especially for land commissioner." Said Payne who is now transit director for the city of ABQ.

That race features GOP incumbent Pat Lyons who pulled off the upset in 02', giving the R's the spot for only the second time in decades. This time he faces Dem and ex-commissioner Jim Baca who is underfunded compared to Lyons' $500,000. Monday night the ABQ Journal hit with its first poll on the race, showing Baca leading, but by just five points. It was Baca 41% and Lyons 36%. The Journal did not print the undecided, but we assume it is the remainder, or 23%. But, Payne explains, the extreme weakness at the top of the ticket, with the R Guv and senate candidates polling in the upper 20's this close to Election Day, is a red flag for Lyons and all down-ballot R's.

"John needs to consolidate the Republican vote, and fast. The most telling number in the Sanderoff poll is the 83% support (GOP U.S. Rep.) Heather Wilson is getting. That compares to Dendahl's 53%. The hangover from the drug legalization controversy and other internal party battles when he was chairman is clearly there. I think he should focus on government overspending and border security--issues Republicans can rally around. An all-attack campaign on Richardson, which may be coming, will probably not be enough.

"I do expect Richardson to attack Dendahl. He wants the 60% to launch his presidential ambitions. As things stand now, I expect him to get there." Analyzed Payne.

MORE GOP PAYNE

Payne said the R's have solid statewide candidates, pointing to political newcomer and attorney general candidate Jim Bibb as one of them, but he said Bibb's profile has been too low. Bibb did start TV ads recently, but otherwise has been quiet. He has been touted as a GOP Golden Boy, but Dem Gary King is now heavily favored, with the ABQ Journal poll released Monday night giving King a 20 point lead, 47% to Bibb's 27% and 26% undecided. Also, if Bibb starts to move, the King camp can be expected to remind conservative voters that Bibb is the son-in-law of former Democratic Guv Toney Anaya who has been supportive of drug legalization and who has taken an active role in the campaign.

Traditionally, the R's come alive late in the game, Payne explained. But with the candidates starting so far back there may simply be too much ground to make up.

While R's losing all the statewide contests would be painful, if not unusual, Payne is most concerned about Rep. Wilson. "She is running a letter-perfect campaign, but I have never seen the national environment so challenging. I expect the Democrats to take the U.S. House. I don't have a call on Heather, except to say she needs to continue what she is doing and more of it."

Thanks, Greg, one of my many veteran analysts who are helping us bring home Campaign 06'.

AUDITOR ACTION

Nervous Democrats are awaiting the formal withdrawal today of Jeff Armijo from the state auditor's race, the last day under state law that he can get out. Nerves are frayed because chatter began circulating Labor Day evening that Armijo is thinking of reversing his decision of last week to resign the ticket after it was revealed he faces charges of making unwanted sexual advances towards a 21 year old woman and had earlier faced a similar charge that was dismissed.

Two high-ranking Dem sources told me that Armijo is considering staying in, but they could not say with any confidence whether he was serious or just venting frustration.

"He has said it. Will he do it? I don't know," said one of my sources.

Armijo withdrew after a meeting with Big Bill and is now reportedly saying he felt pressured by the Governor. Obviously, if Armiijo, who has been making some volatile statements in recent days, did stay in, it would be a major development, with the other Dem candidates facing pressure to disavow his candidacy. The deadline for Armijo to file a withdrawal statement with the secretary of State is 5 p.m. today. We'll keep you posted.

ON THE BATTLE FRONT


Meanwhile, insiders are also saying that the Guv is treading carefully in that battle for the Dem state auditor nomination that is scheduled to be decided this Saturday by the Democratic Party State Central Committee, if Arimjo does indeed withdraw. State Rep. Hector Balderas of the north, ABQ City Councilor Ken Sanchez and ABQ attorney Daniel Ivey-Soto are all in the fray.

The Alligators report Balderas and Sanchez have been on the phones to the committee members. Balderas and Ivey-Soto each had a recent meeting with Big Bill, but the Guv may have more to lose than gain if his fingerprints are too noticeable on the intra-party contest.

The winner of the Dem nod will face R contender Lorenzo Garcia who will do his best to capitalize on the Treasurer scandal. The winner of the Dem slot (unless it is Armijo) can be assured the party and the Guv will rush to help so they don't lose control of the position the R's could use as a launching pad for financial probes of the Guv's administration.

OUR POPULAR LADIES


Political eyes coast-to-coast are on the Wilson-Madrid ABQ congressional race. The nation's largest newspaper, USA Today, (circulation 2.3 million) is one of the latest to take a look. I interviewed for the piece with reporter Andrea Stone which has some good color. And, if you were away and missed our gathering of experts on the Madrid-Wilson poll results, scroll down. It's a must-read for everyone interested in that face-off.

MY BOTTOM LINES
Bill Maher
Liberal comedian Bill Maher set down in ABQ for a Labor Day weekend show at the Kiva Auditorium that attracted the anti-Bush brigade. Maher didn't disappoint, drawing big laughs from his Duke City audience with lines like this: "George Bush is all about business. In fact, he would sell the Red Cross to Dracula if he thought it was good business. And one more that had the crowd roaring: "We now have female suicide bombers. When they get to heaven they get 72 pairs of shoes!"

And so it goes as the official campaign season gets underway. Stay with us. It's going to be a whole lot of fun. And send me your news and comments from the email link at the top of the page.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Get Your Bets Down; We're Going To Round Two; Heather By Three In 1st Poll; Patsy Positioned, But Must Rearm, Plus: Jeff, Steve & Tom On Easy Street 

A bare knuckled brawl featuring hyper-negative ads, millions more in campaign funds and even more national interest is about to unfold in the must-watch race for the ABQ congressional seat. The first independent poll {PDF} measuring support for GOP U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson and Democrat Patricia Madrid released Sunday shows Heather with a narrow three point lead. After six weeks of no-holds barred media campaigning by the two hopefuls, neither has put the race away. And that ends speculation that a "death blow" might be rendered early in a contest which could play a decisive role in which party controls the U.S. House and the course of future American policy on such vital issues as the war in Iraq.

"It was not unexpected," commented veteran ABQ Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff. "Everyone knew we were in a tight one and this confirms it."

The margin of error in the poll of 410 likely voters is 4.8%. Brian, as animated about a political race as I have heard him in decades, said he was also in the field longer than usual, from Aug. 25 thru Aug. 31.

Wilson is polling 45%, Madrid, 42%. Ten percent are undecided and 3% told the pollster they will vote for "neither." For Wilson, it's deja vu all over again. Since taking the seat in 98', she has rarely polled above the magic 50% re-elect number, but by Election Day she has closed the deal with little trouble, trouncing her last Dem challenger by nearly 10 points.

Why shouldn't that happen again? Sanderoff, who has been in the political game for 30 years, responded. "It is different this time, Joe. The unpopularity of President Bush and the Iraq war affords Madrid and the Democrats their best chance for victory. When you have a President whose approval rating is under 45%, (Sanderoff has Bush's NM approval rating down to 38%.) that is a formula for change. If Madrid is successful tying Wilson to Bush and Iraq she has a good chance to win." Declared Sanderoff.

But, Brian, I asked, if this is the year for change, why are we not seeing a marked difference in the way Madrid is polling from loser Richard Romero two years ago when, like Madrid, he was within shouting distance.

"The reason," Sanderoff analyzed, is the TV attack campaign Wilson has waged since mid-July. That campaign has kept Madrid from building any momentum. But, as we expected, the negative ads have not added to Heather's numbers and she remains under 50%. That means the race remains in play," he explained.

Sanderoff's analysis is borne out by the low job approval numbers for our dueling duo, with Patsy coming in with just a 45% approval rating and Heather at only 46%. Both candidates have a lot of work to do.

NUMBERS MANIA

Sanderoff
Sanderoff points out that Attorney General Madrid, twice elected statewide, is polling 54% of the Hispanic vote, too low for the win. Heather captures 35% of the Hispanic vote, again flexing her muscle with this traditionally Democratic group which has been an underpinning of her electoral success. But Wilson is only winning 17% of the Democrats' votes. She will need to up that total to around 25% to again enter the winner's circle. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the 1st District by nearly 40,000, but in the past she has held her Republican base, won the independents and took at least 25% of the Dems to put her over the finish line.

As expected, Heather is carrying 52% of the Anglo vote, many of them R's. In the gender battle, Patsy gets the gals, winning 45% to Heather's 41%, while Heather smothers Patsy with the boys, 49% to 39%. That ten point spread leads me to believe that Madrid needs work with Hispanic male voters.

Another critical number and good news for Wilson is her continued power with voters over 65 years, the most reliable voting demographic and one that will represent a higher percentage of voters than usual in 06' because this is a mid-term election that draws fewer voters to the polls than a presidential year. Wilson has sealed the deal with a majority of them, getting 51% to Patsy's 39%. Madrid will now be pressured to stop the bleeding with the vital prune juice set.

PARTY BREAKDOWN

Patsy is winning 66% of the Dems, much less than Heather's 83% among her party's members. The obvious and not unrealistic hope for the AG's campaign is that she is positioned to pick up many more D's than Heather by November 7.

Sanderoff, addressing speculation that some R's could start peeling away from Heather because of the unpopularity of the Prez and the party nationally, said we can put that to rest. "She is getting 83% of the Republicans and that will probably go to near 90% by Election Day," he predicted. But will GOP turnout be traditional, or will softness show up as a lower turnout than usual and hurt Heather? That's just one of the many multimillion dollar questions in this hotly-contested, high-stakes battle.

Other polling tidbits include "self-reported liberals" who give Madrid 69% support, a number sure to grow. And Heather gets 66% of "self-reported conservatives," a number that should also go up, but maybe not as easily as Madrid's liberals.

Sanderoff is not in the prediction business, but I asked if he sees this one as a "toss-up" or "lean Republican," categories that have been used to describe this race by national pundits. "If there was a category in between those two, I would put it there," He summarized.

I don't swear by any poll, but Sanderoff's unique experience in this district and his sampling techniques separate him from the national pollsters. The theoretical margin of error may be 4.8%, but I see it more like 2.5%. Taking note of the "art" part of the polling science, he remarked: I feel good about this poll. It strikes me as just right."

THE STRATEGISTS CORNER

After I pored over the numbers with Sanderoff, I moved to the all-important strategy for the coming two months. For that I called in two hard-nosed, veteran political consultants and organizers who are familiar to my readers. Pollster and Democratic consultant Harry Pavlides, with 35 years of campaign experience and Steve Cabiedes, who has 20 years of experience under his belt with a specialty in field organization and voter turnout for both major parties.

Pavlides seized upon Heather's strength with the 65+ group, saying it is essential that Madrid keep Heather below 55% with this group Election Night. "She needs major media. Prescription drugs and Social Security are the key issues. Obviously, she needs to tie Wilson to Bush's unpopularity. I think they should have been doing more with the seniors earlier, but better late than never. Seniors have been Wilson's most reliable group. Patsy must make inroads.

"The Hispanic problem stands-out for Patsy," continued Pavlides who cut his teeth on the liberal politics of the 60's. Fifty-four percent support for a Hispanic Democrat like Patsy is not good. She can get more by appealing to Hispanics on economic issues; low wages, jobs and gasoline prices. The problem is mostly with Hispanic males. There is still a traditional bias among some older Hispanics that women don't belong in politics. She can erase that by playing the economic card. There are many patriarchal families where the primary breadwinner is the male. Like Heather, she needs to bring Hispanic males into her TV ads and her free media.

WE CAN'T GET ENOUGH!

What else, Harry? "Overall, it is Iraq. This will help her across-the-board. It must be relentless and non-stop. The ethics attacks on Patsy have not knocked her out. Her 42% is very likely her lowest number. I see her growing. She is not going to fade like other Democrats. There are too many issues breaking her way and she is a superior candidate," concluded the political pundit.

What about Heather, Harry? "She must continue the assault on ethics, but she needs fresh ammunition, a new line of attack to continue the doubts. There is really no other way to go. She must do all she can to keep the race on Patsy. Bush is poison.

And, if Heather finds herself in deeper trouble, Harry advised that she may have to consider a shift on the Iraq war.

"She may have to do more to separate herself from the President. The no-confidence vote coming up in the House on Defense Secretary Rumsfeld could be a way of showing that separation, but it is high-risk as it could appear insincere and desperate." So said Pavlides in a wee hours of the morning cell phone conversation.

THE LONG NIGHT AHEAD

Cabiedes is first with an Election Night prediction. "It is going to be a long night. Unlike previous Heather opponents, Madrid is going to grow, not recede. I would not be surprised if the final poll is 48% to 48%. It's coming down to turnout. Madrid must go all-out. They need to spend thousands on the field, paid coordinators for every zip code if they have to. They have to get the casual Democrat to the polls. I know that is said every year, and it usually fails, but Kerry won Bernalillo County by 10,000 votes with a field effort. It can be done.

Give us some more, Steve. "Most of the electorate is decided. I agree with Harry on how to handle the issues, except Iraq. Heather needs to say the hell with Iraq, stay the course and do all she can to avoid it becoming a dominant issue. Any obvious softening in her position will be seen as weakness and opportunism. Like Patsy, it's dam the torpedoes for Heather when it comes to turnout.

"But she has a bigger problem. There is almost zero interest in the race for Governor. That's the race that drives turnout. If Richardson is landsliding Dendahl, she could experience a drop in GOP turnout. She has done her own get out the vote efforts. This time she needs to redouble her efforts; personally knock on doors and increase her direct mail to targeted precincts. Her personal presence is needed more than ever. And even with all that, I still see a drift toward Madrid as nearly impossible to stop, barring a major error. That's why I see this one keeping us up late on Election Night," concluded Cabiedes.

Brian, Harry and Steve; you've outdone yourselves. Don't worry dear readers, they will be back during the many crucial moments to come in this fight-to-the-finish race for Congress.

JEFF, STEVE AND TOM

What can I say about the other NM congressional races, two U.S. House seats and one senate race? Not much. All three incumbents, Dem Tom Udall from the North, the GOP's Steve Pearce in the South and Dem U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman are all going to win, unless hell freezes over or Monica Lewinsky shows up on one of their payrolls. Udall is getting an astounding 71% as newcomer Republican Ron Dolin (18%) loses R support for going against the Prez on the Iraq war. That, on top of an overwhelming Dem registration, spells doom. Give Dolin credit for being the thinking man's candidate, but Tom is doing his job and voters are going to reward him.

Jeff, in the senate since 83', is at 62% against opponent Allen McCulloch (23%). Bingaman has hit the glass ceiling. He's not going much beyond that number, but a landslide is a landslide. The liberal Dem is personally popular, has localized his tenure to NM, staying away from controversial, lefty issues and, like Udall, he shows up and does his job. Would you rehire an employee like that? Why not? Maybe McCulloch has an answer.

Pearce will have a blow-out too, unless Dem Al Kissling raises big money. Steve is getting 54% to Kissling's 29%. Pearce has the potential to grow several more, as he did two years ago.

THE BOTTOM LINES

And there you have the Big Blog. We'll keep this one up for today and Monday and come back Tuesday with more of the latest polls, including the Guv's race. And thanks to photog Mark Bralley for our exclusive pics of Heather and Patsy. For now, that's plenty of Labor Day picnic offerings for you political junkies to digest. Feel free to do so and if you like, drop me an email with your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Join Me For A Special Sunday Blog On The First Major Poll In The Madrid-Wilson Race 

Join me here Sunday for a special blog report on the first major poll in the ABQ congressional race featuring GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson and Dem challenger Patricia Madrid. The ABQ Journal poll will also have numbers for the state's two other congressional seats and approval ratings for the president and congress. I will have in-depth comments from pollster Brian Sanderoff as well as my own analysis. Tuesday I will call on more of my political gang for further comments.
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