Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Johnny Does Good; R's Get Aboard The McCain Train; He Clinches GOP Nomination; His NM Outlook, Plus: Swisstack Back At Helm In Rio Rancho
Moments after the major networks announced last night that Arizona Senator John McCain had clinched the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, the political pros were already moving on to the question of how he would do in our swing state of New Mexico. The outlook was generally upbeat.
McCain does not set hearts fluttering among right-wing R's (see Rush Limbaugh) but that could be the key to his success as he begins the long battle for this state's five electoral votes.
"McCain has appeal to independents and conservative Democrats. Maybe he loses some on the Republican right, but he has the opportunity here to pick up many more votes than he loses because of his sterling military record and friendly stance on immigration. Both have appeal to New Mexico Hispanics," said one of our longtime Alligators, although he also pointed out that McCain might be trying to have it both ways on immigration.
McCain reminds some oldtimers of moderate NM Governor Dave Cargo and the early years of Senator Pete Domenici. Both Cargo and Domenici cobbled together a coalition of Republicans, Hispanics and conservative Dems. Cargo did it in 1966 and 1968 when he was twice elected governor. Domenici did it in most of his US Senate races starting in 1972.
The spoiler at the McCain party could be his hard-right stance on the Iraq war. It is such a litmus test issue that some of the pros believe it could block the 71 year old from connecting with voters.
"I expect by October his hardcore position on Iraq will be considerably tempered. His talk about staying there 100 years may be diluted as he works to put together a broad coalition," remarked another of our veteran election watchers.
Other pros went to the history books and cited the 1920's success of Republican NM Senator Bronson Cutting who successfully courted Hispanic veterans. McCain, with his military record, could also court this large voting bloc, spreading goodwill through the Spanish North and perhaps cutting down the big Democratic margins there that often doom statewide GOP candidates.
Democrats acknowledge the NM opportunity for McCain, but they think the country is trending heavily Democratic and that in the end that will carry the day and the state. Who will lead their ticket was still muddled last night as Hillary came back to win the Dem Prez primary in Ohio and Texas was a cliffhanger. A recent Rasmussen poll shows McCain and Obama tied in NM at 44% each. In that same poll, McCain beats Hillary 50% to 38%.
MCCAIN IN NEW MEXICO
McCain earlier secured the endorsement of NM GOP US Senator Pete Domenici. ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson, who is seeking her party's nomination to succeed Domenici, shares a military background with McCain and also tries to style herself a 'moderate' Republican sometimes ala McCain. However, in her primary race she is calling herself a "common sense conservative." Heather brought McCain to ABQ in the closing days of her tight-as-it-can-get '06 US House race with Dem Patricia Madrid.
Darren White, Bernalillo County Sheriff and likely US House nominee for the ABQ congressional seat being vacated by Heather, endorsed Rudy Giuliani for the Prez nomination, but McCain may be a better leader of the GOP ticket for White than Rudy would have been. Again, if McCain's candidacy veers toward the middle it could attract independents and Reagan Dems, the same voters White will need. GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce, more of a red meat Republican than his senate rival Wilson, is also a military veteran and will embrace McCain on that level.
I first met McCain in 1984 when he had just begun his service in the US House and before he claimed a senate seat. He campaigned for Republican Lou Gallegos who was running for the northern congressional seat against Bill Richardson. I was serving as Lou's press secretary. That was one of McCain's first, if not the first, political visit to New Mexico by the soon-to-be standard bearer for the nation's Republicans. And longtime NM Republican Greg Zanetti, among others, will remember when a group of us--Dems, R's and independents--got together in 2000 to explore starting a Prez committee for McCain in NM. That lasted all of a couple of days as McCain's run ended with a loss in the GOP South Carolina primary to George W. Bush.
If Tom Swisstack wants to do big things, now is the time. The former Rio Rancho mayor and current NM Democratic state representative, won the mayor's job back last night by trouncing six other contenders and scoring an impressive 59% of the vote. Swisstack needed 50% to avoid a run-off. He got that and more. With the electoral mandate will come high expectations, especially for improvements to the infrastructure (roads, sewer) that are long-standing needs in the fast-growing city now registering a population of about 75,000.
(Here's the results of the Santa Fe city election. Results from other municipal elections across the state are here)
Swisstack, popular in his first term in the late 90's, has had no ethical issues which was a relief to city voters, having been traumatized by the scandal-ridden term of Mayor Kevin Jackson who was forced to resign.
The question now is whether Swisstack will resign his state House seat and let the Sandoval County Commission appoint a replacement. Swisstack has said he will not serve as both representative and mayor. But blogger Eric Maddy reports Sandoval County Commissioner Jack Thomas, the leading contender to replace Swisstack, does not want to give up us commission seat until his term expires at year's end. But Swisstack's Rio Rancho district is actually lean Republican and Dems might want to give their man a heads-up by making him an incumbent and attending this summer's special session on health care. GOP educator Paula Papponi is already campaigning. We'll keep you posted.
THE BOTTOM LINES
When is a "free ride" a free ride? We noted Tuesday that Democratic Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulose Oliver could be in for free ride #2 because she has not yet drawn June primary opposition and was appointed to the post by the Bernalillo County Commission to fill out the term of Mary Herrera who was elected secretary of state. Maggie chimes in that while she understands she has not yet stood for election, she says her appointment didn't feel like a free ride. "There were a lot of names competing" for the clerk's position, she said. Not that there's anything wrong with a free ride...
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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