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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Two Week Prez Dash: Is NM Clinton Country? Plus: Ex-Guv Makes Prez Endorsement, And: Is Big Bill Blue? 

Barack Obama fired the first shots in the New Mexico Democratic presidential battle by unveiling TV ads here, but veteran Dems we consulted say Hillary is still positioned to win the war here. Their consensus sees the ABQ metro area as a key battleground where they give a slight edge to Obama, but they see the former first lady dominating in the south and east and capturing enough Hispanic votes in the north to hold off the Illinois senator. (How about that CNN debate last night? Was that hotter than Hatch green chile or what?)

What could be ominous for Obama in New Mexico February 5 is what happened with the Hispanic vote in the Nevada caucus Saturday. NM pollster Brian Sanderoff summed it up for me this way: "Exit polling in Nevada suggests that Hillary Clinton performed well among Hispanics. If this trend continues in NM, then it would be reasonable to conclude that Hillary starts with an advantage since Hispanics play such an important role in NM Democratic Party politics."

Those polls showed Nevada Hispanics going for Hillary by better than 3 to 1. The experts speculate that Hispanic turnout in the NM Dem caucus will be lower than it is in a traditional primary, but still a major voting block. Obama is expected to perform best among Anglo liberals concentrated in Santa Fe, Taos, and in the ABQ metro.

The Obama campaign will bring in Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano today to campaign in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. The ABQ native will also appear in ABQ's South Valley to woo Hispanic voters. (Wire reports that Clinton would visit here in the next day or two are not correct. The Clinton campaign says she will visit the state before the Feb. 5 election.)

MORE PREZ ANALYSIS

Dem consultant Harry Pavlides believes Clinton's strength in the north will slow any Obama juggernaut. "The Clintons are not the Kennedys but in the north they are very well liked. She has a base of support there and also has one with women voters. Obama needed to be on TV early to catch her. She also needs to go on the air but does not need to match him ad for ad because of the base of support she already has here," Pavlides said.

Only 26 national Dem convention delegates are at stake in the February 5th voting here. (12 more go to the convention unpledged.) A candidate must win 15% of the popular vote in a congressional district in order to win some of the 26. John Edwards is in danger of being shut out. He has the potential to score heavy with Anglo voters in the south and the east, but his campaign has stalled nationally, making him less of a factor here. He turned it on last night at the CNN debate. Does he have a second wind to get back in this thing?

As for turnout, the experts expect us to match the 105,000 Dems who cast ballots at the '04 caucus. Because the D's have been energized, we could go higher. Here's my coverage of the results of NM's Feb. '04 caucus.

One thing is certain: What happens on the national scene in the next two weeks will have a major impact on how NM Dems feel about the race, so while Hillary has the edge here keep your eye on the headlines. The big local factor is Big Bill's endorsement. We blogged yesterday that insiders expect him to back a candidate before the caucus. If he chooses Hillary, it could help her put this one away.

GARY JOHNSON RESURFACES

While we're waiting for Big Bill to weigh in with an endorsement in the Dem Prez race, on the R side former NM GOP Governor Gary Johnson is surfacing, coming with an endorsement for Ron Paul. It's no surprise to those who have followed the politics of the former two term Governor. He was always more libertarian than Republican, especially when he called for the legalization of drugs. But Johnson did not cite the drug war in his endorsement. He said the Texas congressman, who has given fits to establishment Republicans, will end the unpopular war in Iraq and for that Paul gets his vote. NM R's will have little say in the GOP Prez battle. Their primary isn't held here until June 3.

PROBE CONTINUES

Several of our legal beagles tell us we need to clarify our blog where we said the Senate Ethics Committee probe into the US Attorney scandal and Senator Domenici's role in it was closed. It is not closed. From "The Hill" newspaper:

The investigation remains “open,” according to Natalie Ravitz, spokeswoman for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the ethics committee.The status of the House ethics committee review is unclear, but the panel has been active. (Former NM US Attorney Iglesias) met with the panel last year to discuss his firing and his allegation that (Rep. Heather) Wilson put pressure on him to file charges before the election.

Washington observers think by announcing his retirement Domenici probably escapes any more fallout from the scandal. That might not be the same for Rep. Heather Wilson.

And there's more: As potent as the congressional probes might be, they appear to be far narrower than a sprawling inquiry launched by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).

No doubt Rep. Steve Pearce, challenging Heather for the GOP US Senate nomination, is keeping a close eye on the US attorney developments.

BILL'S BLUE PERIOD?

Big Bill with a beard? The Guv startled Santa Fe reporters Monday as he sported some stubble and declared he will be growing a beard. It's his way of "decompressing" from his year long Prez battle. Is Bill Blue? Didn't Al Gore grow a beard after losing the 2000 Prez race? And how about Senator Pete. As soon as he announced he was giving up the power, out went the razor and on came the beard. Well, Bill isn't about to give up the power, but he does seem happiest when he is running for something. For those of you who are not beard fans, be thankful. He could have shaved his head.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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