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Thursday, January 31, 2008

America's Top Dems Are New Mexico Bound; Caravan Of Heavies Sarts Today; Bill Clinton & Ted Kennedy; Then Hill & Barack, Also: Pearce's Plays 

The grand finale of the 2008 New Mexico Democratic presidential caucus starts today. And what a show it's going to be. Today alone party superstars Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy will campaign in the state. Friday Senator Obama supporters will jam ABQ's downtown Kiva Auditorium to hear from a superstar in the making. Over the weekend Hillary Clinton, now an historic political figure, will complete this cavalcade into our Land of Enchantment. The burst of activity is creating enthusiasm in the state's majority party and could boost turnout next Tuesday, despite hard to find voting locations.

No recent public polling has been released on the NM caucus, one of 22 Dem contests to be held across the nation next Tuesday. However, a Clinton campaign insider told me internal polling shows Hillary doing "very well" among Hispanics in NM, Colorado and Arizona. The concern is getting them to the polls and the momentum Obama has built since his big win in South Carolina and the endorsement of his candidacy by Senator Kennedy.

Kennedy, 75, will appear at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in ABQ at 10 a.m. today and then make his way to Santa Fe for a 1:30 p.m. appearance at the Santa Fe Community College. The Kennedys have long political ties to NM, beginning in 1960 when Rio Arriba County political boss Emilio Naranjo helped put the county in the Jack Kennedy column. Naranjo is no longer the boss and he is not with Ted Kennedy on this one. He has a sign in his yard supporting "The Lady Senator from New York."

My earliest NM memory of Ted Kennedy is a 1974 appearance he made on behalf of then Lieutenant Governor Roberto Mondragon who was running against Republican Manuel Lujan for the ABQ congressional seat. The Senator appeared at the old Civic Auditorium for a packed 7 a.m. rally. He held a news conference where I asked him about the then hot issue of busing students around Boston to achieve racial desegregation. He did not like the question.

Kennedy was also here in 2004 for Prez candidate John Kerry. In '82 he came in for then-Congressman Richardson. President Kennedy made a famous 1962 visit to ABQ when he stayed at the old Western Skies Hotel on the eastern outskirts of the city.

To this day in many northern NM households there are photographs of Jesus and President Kennedy side by side. The Kennedys were ahead of their time in advocating civil rights for Hispanics and blacks. The question now is whether Senator Kennedy is ahead of his time in supporting an African-American candidate for President, or has that time finally come?
(Here is video of Kennedy Thursday morning at the Hispanic Cultural Center.)

BILL'S BACK

New Mexico welcomes back Bill Clinton today when he holds a 3 p.m. event at Johnson Center at UNM. He has always liked the state, perhaps because it has similarities to his home state of Arkansas. Both have large swaths of rural areas and one big city, a large number of economically humble households and an obsession with politics, if not necessarily governing.

Bill easily carried our state in his two presidential campaigns. He spent a week in ABQ back in '96 preparing for his national TV debates with GOP challenger Bob Dole. His most memorable visit was in the wee morning hours of Election Day 1992 when he stopped at an airport hangar. Despite the early hour, he was greeted by a mass of adoring supporters. His love of Mexican food, his down to earth personality and his obvious affection for the underdogs of society have endeared him to the Democrats of this state, and not a few Republicans. Can that affection be passed on to Hillary who is working hard to establish a relationship with NM?

THE CANDIDATES LAND

Senator Obama's visit is all set. Expect an overflow crowd Friday when he conducts an "Economic Summit" at 1:15 p.m. Friday at the 2,300 seat Kiva Auditorium downtown. Following that he will head to Santa Fe for a "Stand for Change" rally at the Santa Fe Community College.

I don't know if the Senator has ever been here before, but there is great anticipation for this visit. Polls show an astounding 70% of the American people believe the country is on the "wrong track." Obama's politics of hope, unity and grace stand in startling contrast to what we have seen the past 20 years. The hunger for change has never been greater and Obama is feeding the masses. Democratic hearts swell when they hear him speak. Will New Mexicans be moved to go to the voting booths by this inspiring figure?

Hillary Clinton is expected here Saturday. As much as Obama is an example of inspiration, she is an example of perseverance and determination. Against the odds, she has prevailed and become the first woman to seriously contest for the American presidency. As first lady she visited NM on several occasions. She is well aware of our concerns, having competed on the campaign trail with Governor Richardson. If she makes it to the Oval Office New Mexico would be heard. Will Democrats hear her voice when they walk into the polling places Tuesday?

PEARCE STILL POUNCING

Besides the presidential candidates, the most active statewide campaign around here this month has been that of Steve Pearce's. The GOP US Senate candidate has been up on TV for weeks---the first buy of the '08 campaign---conducting numerous town hall telephone meetings and issuing a bounty of news releases on subjects ranging from tax cuts to interest rate cuts. He finishes January with a bang, reporting that a Wednesday night fundraiser in Santa Fe netted his campaign over $100,000. The event at the La Fonda was hosted by a bevy of energy industry heavies, including the Yates family of SE NM. Here's the official invitation.

Pearce also announced an endorsement by the anti-tax group, Club for Growth. The group gets involved in Republican primaries, supporting who they believe to be the conservative candidate. In this case, they go strongly for Pearce over his GOP rival, US Rep. Heather Wilson.

Steve Pearce has signed a pledge against raising taxes and has honored that pledge faithfully. He voted against every Democratic measure to raise taxes...In stark contrast, Heather Wilson is one of the most liberal Republicans in the House of Representatives and, if elected, would be one of the most liberal Republican Senators. Although Wilson signed the no-tax pledge when she was first elected to the House in 1998, she has broken the pledge numerous times.

The Club for Growth can be expected to raise money for Pearce from its lengthy membership list. Wilson, who still has a significant name ID advantage over Pearce, has been running a much more low-key campaign. But with Pearce continuing to put the pressure on, that could change sooner rather than later.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Late word that Dolores Huerta, head of the United Farm Workers in California, will travel to NM today for the Clinton campaign...

ABQ financial advisor and community activist, Victor Raigoza, will seek the Democratic nomination for State Senate District 10--an area that encompasses parts of ABQ's NE Heights, North Valley, Corrales, and parts of Rio Rancho. The district is currently represented by GOP State Sen. John Ryan.

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I'm Joe Monahan thanking you for joining me and reporting to you from Albuquerque, NM.

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