Monday, March 31, 2008
Media Binge Begins: Tinsley Buys Big, Plus: McCain's First TV In NM; Why? And: Udall Courts Conservatives; Wilson After Pearce
Last Monday we told you our TV insiders were saying upwards of $4 million could be spent on TV ads in this unprecedented New Mexico primary. Well, on this Monday the contenders have started chipping away at that $4 million mark. Now the insiders report GOP Southern NM Congressional candidate Ed Tinsley has booked $320,000 of ABQ TV for the month of May. The campaign of the Lincoln County rancher and restaurant chain owner (K-Bob's) had already said that Tinsley might have a campaign budget of a million bucks. If he does, $320,000 probably won't be all he spends on the tube.
May cash is critical. Whose message will voters see and hear most in the sprawling district as they cast early and absentee votes and go to the polls June 3? GOP rancher Aubrey Dunn, Jr. has committed $300,000 of his own cash to the campaign and can be expected to be on the air with Tinsley. Will the other R candidates--Greer, Newman and Sowards--manage significant air time?
This is an unknown Republican field which means the candidates are going to have build a base of voters largely from scratch, and you aren't going to be able to do it by knocking on doors. Congressional Quarterly rates the Southern seat lean Republican for the November election.
WHY NEW MEXICO?
That John McCain selected our Land of Enchantment to unveil his first TV spot was not surprising as we are a key swing presidential state. But another important reason for New Mexico being first is that we are cheap. It's no secret that McCain's campaign coffers look like those of a pauper's when compared to Barack and Hillary. He can't afford to be spending big bucks on early TV with the November election so far away. Enter New Mexico, where the presumptive GOP prez nominee plunks down just $170,o00 and covers almost the entire state at a cost per thousand that is among the lowest in the USA. Besides saving bucks, the McCain tube debut had the desired consequence of generating national news. And that is always the main point when a prez nominee unveils his first TV ads.
As for the 60 second ad itself, it debuted to mixed reviews. Those who liked the bio spot pointed out how it described McCain's prisoner of war experience. Those who felt the ad came up short noted that it barely mentions what will likely be the top issue this year--the economy. If that is a voter's chief concern, the McCain ad could leave the impression that the candidate is somewhat disconnected. Still, most New Mexicans will like the attention of being first. For that, McCain scores points here.
As we blogged last week, the state is bracing itself for a tsunami wave of TV ads in this election year when three US House seats are open as well as a US Senate seat. On the Senate front, we are told by Dem insiders that Rep. Tom Udall, who is set to be crowned the party's nominee in June, will be on the airwaves for the primary even though he has no opposition. No dollar figure yet.
That may sound like a no-brainer decision, but Dem worrywarts were glad to hear it. They think Udall can't afford to be out of the spotlight while Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson beat up on him even as they fight for the GOP nomination.
We've noted that some strategists believe Udall should be spending much of his early free time campaigning on the conservative East Side where big totals for the GOP contender could cause him trouble. Maybe he's listening. Last week the Northern US Rep. made a foray into the heart of NM conservatism--Otero County. What could the liberal lawmaker talk about there? His answer was to tour Holloman AFB and pronounce himself satisfied with the historical support the base has received from NM senators. Tom already has the R's hanging the Los Alamos Labs cutbacks around his neck, and lining up to paint him as anti-military and a threat to the state's huge national defense presence.
And what of Heather Wilson's continuing efforts to paint Steve Pearce as weak on national defense? It does seem a bit odd. After all, the Southern NM Congressman and Vietnam war vet, is one of the most stalwart conservative R's in the nation. But the ABQ Congresswoman, a graduate of the Air Force Academy, has seized on a House vote involving the air force bases--including Cannon AFB in Clovis--and concluded that Pearce voted to "mothball" Cannon. The base did come close to closure, but with the help of the NM congressional delegation, including Pearce, it was given a new mission. Rather than losing jobs, it appears Cannon may pick up some.
Wilson, fighting Pearce's big lead outside ABQ for the GOP Senate nomination, has to use something to try to whittle away at that support and the pickings are rather slim. But accusing Pearce of being weak-kneed on NM's military seems akin to saying Dennis Kucinich is for the war in Iraq. It doesn't pass the smell test. But what else is there for Wilson to use? That's the problem, isn't it?
After five months of campaigning--yes, its been that long--the GOP Senate race does not seem to be lighting up the stage. That, of course, will change with the advent of the around-the clock TV ads, the robo calls, and the direct mail. But it may be hard for the R's to get fired up because both the US House and Senate are controlled by the Democrats and that appears unlikely to change this election cycle. Also, a significant number of Republicans, according to polling, are just as unhappy with the direction of the country as Democrats.
Insiders think if primary turnout is on the low side, it could benefit Pearce who attracts bedrock conservatives most likely to vote. A large turnout--especially in ABQ--could favor Wilson. In the weeks left, Wilson will have to continue to beat up on Pearce because she is behind. While negative campaigning often works, there are those occasions when it has been known to backfire. Will this be one of them?
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All of this will supply plenty of cocktail chatter for the state GOP chairs and national GOP Chairman Mike Duncan who gather for their annual confab this week at the Hyatt Tamaya at Santa Ana Pueblo near Bernalillo. McCain campaign manger Rick Davis will also attend. They will be hosted by NM GOP Chairman Allen Weh. We imagine he'll offer a toast to Hillary and Barack including a wish that their intense campaign campaign continues...and continues.
The many primary foes of Northern Dem congressional contender and Public Regulation Commissioner Ben Lujan are having to fight perceptions that the cake is already baked and that Lujan, son of state House Speaker Ben Lujan, has a lock on the nomination. However, Santa Fe home developer Don Wiviott is the only one of five Lujan challengers who has the resources to do much about it. To that end, he commissioned a poll from Lake Research. It says Lujan's support is a tepid 23% in the large district. That contrasts with Lujan's own January polling that puts him at 35% and the outcome of the mid-March Dem pre-primary convention at which Lujan received 40% of the delegate vote to Wiviott's 30%.
The poll was done March 24 thru the 27th. It has Wiviott getting 16% and undecided voters at 48%. The campaign did not release the question asked. The other candidates are in low single digits. The campaign says the poll was done among 500 likely Dem voters and has an MOE of 4.4%. While Wiviott released his poll, Lujan's campaign released news that it had received the endorsement of the 6,500 member NM Communications Workers of America.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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