Friday, May 25, 2007

Domenici Plunges To Historic Polling Low; Only 52% Approval As US Attorney Scandal & Iraq War Take Their Toll; Our Exclusive Analysis Is Next 

Sen. Domenici
It's been a verity of New Mexican life since you were young and none of your body parts sagged: Pete Domenici is senator for life. But unlike death and taxes, politics carries no certainty and so it is for New Mexico's longest serving U.S. Senator. His Washington office was rocked by the news Thursday that the latest Survey USA poll shows him dropping perilously close to the critical 50% approval rating, with only 52% now approving of Domenici's job performance. 42% disapprove and 6% are unsure. (Conducted 5-11-5-13 MOE +-4.1)

In the April Survey USA he was at 54%; In march 57% approved; in February, before the US Attorney scandal broke, he garnered 64% approval. The 52% approval represents a stunning drop over the course of only three months. Can he go lower? Or is this the bottom? What does this mean for his '08 re-election prospects? Will the low numbers attract a serious opponent?

"The most dangerous number in this poll is among those aged 55 and over. Only 51% of those older voters approve of the job he's doing and 46% approve. These are the people who have trusted him for 30 years. Now many of them think he has let them down. He needs to do more to address the US attorney scandal and assure them his actions were not out of line," analyzed veteran NM Democratic pollster Harry Pavlides.

Students of New Mexico politics will note that these are the lowest approval numbers ever for Domenici who was first elected in 1972. His closest re-elect bid was in 1978 when he beat Toney Anaya with 53% of the vote.

While damage control is obviously in order, it is hard to do when you face the prospect of another shoe dropping. The US attorney scandal, which has become as no-end-in-sight as the Iraq war, could draw more of Pete's blood If the Senate Ethics Committee gets aggressive and turns a preliminary inquiry into a full fledged probe.

"He could drop below the 50% level if there are further damaging revelations, " said Pavlides.

While they weren't revelations, testimony this week about the White House role in the firing of NM US Attorney David Iglesias will do nothing to warm up voters who have suddenly turned a cold shoulder to the 75 year old legendary lawmaker.

1970's Pete
Domenici has now dropped to a 39% approval rating among Democrats, the state's majority party by far, and that has emboldened new state Democratic Party Chairman Brian Colón. He drafted this missive Thursday demanding the senator "come clean" over his role in the scandal.

The only good news for Pete was that it was the Democratic chairman coming after him and not an announced and well-funded Democratic opponent. There is still no significant contender in the race, costing the Dems a golden opportunity. That could change with these polling numbers, as a Domenici challenge has gone from a long-shot gamble to within the realm of possibility.

Another note from pollster Pavlides. "Pete's numbers are following the same trajectory as Bush's. He is holding his Republicans--although 71% approval among them is too low--and like Bush, he has lost the Democrats and Independents. (Independents give only 41% approval) He is not as low as Bush, but I think he is being hurt by his support of Bush and the war. His halo has been tarnished by the scandal; he is now more susceptible to his position on the unpopular war." He explained.


Is it fathomable that Pete could be beat? It would still take a perfect storm--the US attorney scandal, the Iraq war and his age--combined in a way that fully resonates with voters on the fence. Will the numbers make Domenici take a second look at the notion of retirement? If there is no turn around in the months ahead, everything will be on the table. As we said at the start, Death and taxes are still on the certainty list. Domenici as senator for life has dropped off.

Thanks to photog Mark Bralley for today's pics of Senator Domenici. Have news or comments? Send them our way via the mail link at the top of the page, and stop by again soon.

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