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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Reality Time: Bill Warms to Hillary, Plus: Cervantes Set To Enter Congress Race, And: New Marty Poll Causes Confusion; It's A Fearless Halloween Blog 

Crunch time turned to reality time for Big Bill last night as this most pragmatic of politicians signaled a significant shift in his campaign strategy, gamely defending front-runner Hillary Clinton and setting off renewed speculation among the Alligators that Richardson is now lobbying for the Veep slot or Secretary of State position in a Clinton administration. Some also said they see Richardson inching closer to a run for the US Senate in New Mexico. Here's the money graph from the report on the MSNBC debate:

With the crescendo of criticism of the former first lady at a fever pitch, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson at one point questioned the "holier-than-thou" attitude of her critics.

"It's bothering me because it's pretty close to personal attacks that we don't need. We need to be positive in this campaign...Richardson said. (Video clip here.)

The Governor's arduous defense of Hillary was not lost on the political pros who noted it comes just two months before the opening Iowa caucuses and with Bill stalled out in the polls.

"Sending a warm signal to Clinton counts more now rather than two months from now when she could have the nomination nailed down," commented one of our veteran insiders.

LOVE IS IN THE AIR

The Hillary-Bill love fest actually started earlier in the day when the Guv filed papers in New Hampshire for that state's primary.

"I think that Senators Obama and Edwards should concentrate on the issues and not on attacking Senator Clinton," said Big Bill.

Sounds like he's rehearsing for Second Banana, doesn't it?

Looking at the debate through a different prism, the national press was of no help to Bill:

Richardson struggled to distinguish himself, attempting...to tout himself as the lone chief executive on stage but to little effect. Richardson does have perhaps the deepest resume of any candidate...but really struggles within the parameters of a debate to effectively convey that to voters." Analyzed the Washington Post's political blogger.

Realism has defined the political career of Bill Richardson. Tuesday night in Philadelphia he began the process of hedging his bets. Stay tuned.

CERVANTES STARTS HIS ENGINES

Back on the home front, the jockeying is far from over in what must be the most politically significant year in the state's post-WWII history. Word comes to us that Democratic State Representative Joe Cervantes of Doña Ana County is set to join the race for the southern US House seat being vacated by the GOP's Steve Pearce who is now running for the Domenici senate seat.

Cervantes emails us that he will make a formal announcement after the Las Cruces city election next Tuesday. He is not personally confirming he will run, but our reliable sources report he has told close associates he is going to make the run. Cervantes has a Hamlet aspect to his personality, so we'll leave a little crack in the door for a late change of course, otherwise consider him a go.

Cervantes will join Hobbs oilman Harry Teague, Doña Ana County Commissioner Bill McCamley and Al Kissling in the Dem race for the 2nd CD. Republican Ed Tinsley, a restaurant chain owner, is soliciting campaign contributions and is expected to formally enter the race in a week or so. There are no announced GOP candidates yet.

Cervantes and Teague have the personal wealth to wage battle, but as the lone Hispanic in the race Cervantes will go off as the front-runner. And not just because he is Hispanic, but because he is a practiced campaigner and well-spoken attorney. Teague is also savvy, having been twice elected a Lea County Commissioner.

The Cervantes camp was already framing the race against Teague with this first shot across the wealthy oilman's bow from a Joe booster:

"Harry will spend a lot of money but Dems will look very unfavorably on his ties to Steve Pearce and oil. Also, Harry cannot win a general election by outspending a Repub opponent, and Dems really want to win this one."

And what say you, Harry?

MULLING OVER MARTY

The Alligators were scratching their heads Tuesday when they got word that the US Senate campaign of Dem ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez had leaked a poll to the Capitol Hill newspaper, Roll Call, (subscription required) that showed him beating ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson in a head-to-head race for the US Senate by just one point. The newspaper reported:

The survey, conducted by Lake Research Partners, had Chavez in front of Wilson 41 percent to 40 percent, with 19 percent undecided. The poll found Chavez leading Wilson among independent voters 48 percent to 30 percent. The survey of 400 likely voters was conducted Oct. 8-11 and had an error margin of 4.9 points.

The reason the Gators were baffled is that they did not see how the poll advances Chavez's prospects. In a Democratic state in what is shaping up to be a big Dem year, they reason Chavez should be running well ahead, and rather than advancing his cause the numbers will just cause more "Anybody But Chavez" campaigning by national Dems in D.C. They continue to lobby NM Light Guv Diane Denish to get in the race.

The kicker here is that the Chavez poll makes no mention of how he would fare against GOP Congressman Steve Pearce who the insiders think is the early front-runner to take the Senate nomination, not Wilson. Pearce beat Chavez 56% to 35% in a SurveyUSA poll conducted earlier this month. Heather beat Marty 48% to 44% in the same poll.

Chavez's poll, rather than scaring anyone out of the race, again raises the question of why he is so weak with the state's Democratic base. Among independents, the poll has Chávez leading 48%-30%. His right-leaning mayoral administration is certainly the paramount reason for Dem disaffection.

LADY IN WAITING

Meanwhile, Light Guv Di told the Denver Post she will make a decision regarding a Senate run in the next 10 days. She is receiving nearly unanimous advice in New Mexico not to go and keep her eye on the Governor's job. But the lobbying from D.C. Dems is intense. They are fearful that Chavez can't make it and that Di is their best hope to switch the NM seat to the D's and help reach the national goal of 60 Dem US Senators needed to advance legislation.

All of this, of course, leads us back to Big Bill, whose popularity remains high in the state and who would be difficult to beat. His presidential campaign is going to hold up the Senate race here, whether the national Dems like it or not. Only the unexpected--a Denish entry--will start the Senate clock without the Big Guy. Right now Marty Chavez is Big Bill's biggest booster for the Presidency because if Bill falters and goes for Senate, it would be Chavez facing an 800 pound gorilla. And you know who wins those face-offs.

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