Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pearce Takes A Whipping, But Keeps On Ticking, Plus: Insiders Report On Prez & Obama Visits, Also: Bill To Come For Ben Ray Today 

Heather Wilson was like a dominatrix with a big black whip, cracking it time and again across the exposed flesh of Steve Pearce and often drawing blood as the two GOP US Senate contenders faced off last night in a one hour prime time televised debate. Pearce was largely compliant, accepting his punishment, but preaching the conservative gospel that has put him in the lead for the nomination. Despite the nonstop whipping, analysts checking in here were not optimistic that the debate was enough for Wilson to turn this one around. Video highlights here and AP coverage here.

"Heather was on fire. She clearly won, but I don't know if it swung a lot of opinion. Her strategy was to energize her vote in Albuquerque. If there were enough people watching, it could make a difference," analyzed Greg Payne, veteran Republican strategist and one of the state's keener political minds.

Insiders, quoting their knowledge of the latest campaign polling, say Pearce is holding on to at least a five point statewide lead, more in some surveys. He seemed content on the KOAT stage to get his red-meat conservatism on the table, but hardly had a chance as Heather threw everything at him from Los Alamos funding cuts to his stance on Social Security. She covered all the bases. All she can do now is hope it moves the polling needles.

Was there anything said in the debate that could be made into a TV spot to hurt Wilson or Pearce in the final days? Nothing obvious, although Pearce did not give a full answer to the Social Security issue which could come back to haunt him in a fall campaign.

Perhaps the most important segment of the event came when Pearce asked Wilson if she would support him if he won the nomination. She said she would and he in return said he would support her if she were the opponent of Dem Tom Udall. While the rest of the debate must have made Republicans cringe over the discord, that part was music to their ears. Their biggest fear is a divided party facing energized Dems. If there was anything positive amid the barrage of charges the contenders threw at one another last night, that was it.


President Bush cracked some jokes and talked about the energy crisis, among other matters, during a half hour or so speech in Los Ranchos Tuesday afternoon. That word from one of our Senior Alligators on the scene at the Maestas (real estate) North Valley home where Bush's appearance netted $317,000 for the ABQ GOP congressional candidacy of Darren White and the state GOP. (ABQ Journal report is here.) The state GOP will get some of the money, but the party tells us it won't be a 50-50 split, meaning White will get most of the cash.

"Senator Domenici introduced him. He spoke for about half an hour. The event was outside in a patio setting with a covered tent and catered food. Bush was in good spirits, joking that he routinely gives speeches to huge crowds but at the recent wedding of his daughter "his legs shook" as he walked her down the aisle.

"He blamed the high gas prices on a lack of gasoline refineries, restrictions on oil and gas drilling and the failure to build more nuclear power plants.

(ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather) Wilson was there. Steve Pearce was not, but his wife Cynthia was."

Thanks, Senior Gator. See our special Mark Bralley photo section on the Prez's visit at the bottom of today's blog.


It appears our blog color commentary inadvertently provided some fodder for Darren White's campaign in the news release it sent out describing the Tuesday fundraising event with President Bush.

White said he appreciates the President's willingness to attend the fundraiser, noting that "liberal special interests are expected to invest heavily in the campaign of his likely Democrat opponent, who is constantly referred to as the "darling of the Left."

"Darling of the left" is one of our pet phrases for Heinrich, but we could just as easily call Darren the "darling of the right." And maybe we should. The bottom line is that both of the probable ABQ congressional nominees will be fighting for key middle-of-the-road voters having successfully secured their respective base votes--the ones who call them darling.


NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici, who endorsed White early in the primary season, was already working for the independent vote for the sheriff at the Bush event: "Don’t vote for Darren because he is of either party. Vote for him because he is a man of character and a man who cares.” Said a campaign release.

Domenici is on a long farewell tour of NM. His final term concludes at the end of the year. He spoke at a Memorial Day event Monday. Those who have seen him this week say his age is showing, but his speeches have gone well. The 76 year old senator is afflicted with an incurable brain disease.


While the Prez was feting White, the Dems were enjoying a hit he was taking for his role in the US attorney scandal and more specifically the dismissal of NM US attorney David Iglesias. White refused to comment for the Web site--The Public Record--but the issue is sure to bubble up again this election year.


Joe Carraro just hasn't been able to muster the muscle to give White a tough contest for the ABQ GOP congressional nod, but he is a fighter and will go down swinging. He issued this statement on Bush's endorsement of White in a contested primary:

New Mexicans don't need Washington bosses to tell us who can best serve the interests of New Mexico and our country. We are still a democracy and the people will decide."

Bill & Michelle
News today of two Michelles--Obama and Lujan Grisham. We start with Michelle Obama at Yanni's restaurant on East Central in ABQ where the wife of the likely Dem presidential nominee warmed up a crowd of about 100 Tuesday. Our insiders on the scene tell us those who gave $1000 received some additional face time with the possible future first lady. Others paid $500. Michelle spoke for better than half an hour and fielded a number of questions, much of which was the standard stump speech on bringing about change. She was introduced by Big Bill, who may have a place in any Obama administration.

Among those on hand were State Dem party chair Brian Colon, a superdelegate to the Dem national convention who recently announced he would support Obama; State Rep. Al Park, one of the more enthusiastic NM lawmakers for the Illinois senator; former NM Governor Jerry Apodaca; former NM Attorney General David Norvell and his wife State Rep. Gail Chasey and state African-American political leaders state Treasurer James B. Lewis, State Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton and former State Rep. Lenton Malry.

It was Michelle Obama's first trip to ABQ and she was given a taste of the local culture through a variety of gifts, including Indian jewelry. She left Yanni's for her first trip to Santa Fe and another fund-raiser at the home of former NM Attorney General Paul Bardacke. At both locales she was kept far from TV cameras and the possibility of making an error at a sensitive time in the campaign. Some of the media mavens advised that next time the Obama campaign provide a decent photo op of Michelle Obama. The stuff posted on the Web sites and aired on TV was that lousy "caught on the run" stuff. This is a good looking, youthful woman. They can "protect" her from the questions, and still get some nice shots for voters to see, can't they?

Barack Obama was in Las Cruces Monday where he received extensive coverage in the El Paso TV market which covers Dona Ana County. He also sat down for an interview with KOAT-TV which got him into the big ABQ market with R presidential contender John McCain who gave several TV interviews during his ABQ Memorial Day visit. It is certain that both Obamas will be learning a lot about green and red in the months ahead as NM remains a key swing state in the 2008 presidential contest.

(Former ABQ Mayor Jim Baca was at the event and took some of the few good pics of Michelle Obama's visit, including the one posted here.)


It has been a rougher ride financially for our other Michelle--Lujan Grisham, Insiders report she has cut back her TV buy for the final week of the primary. We saw no Michelle TV ads over the long holiday weekend. Our previous analysis that Grisham could make a move into second and threaten first in the ABQ Dem congressional contest was based on her having up a significant buy. If it doesn't happen, it would seem former NM Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron would take the silver. The gold still appears to belong to Martin Heinrich who was ahead by 11 points in the ABQ Journal poll released Sunday. That confirmed other campaign polling.


He's coming today. That's the word we're getting on Big Bill and his planned endorsement of Northern Dem congressional candidate Ben Ray Lujan. The Guv's formal backing of Lujan in a contested primary might not be possible unless his father was speaker of the NM House and a key Richardson ally. Bill, who represented the Northern district for many years, is going to drive the Don Wiviott campaign crazy with this move. The Santa Fe developer is running second for the nomination, but he is close enough that an upset win is still on the table. Bill's highly publicized endorsement makes Wiviott's wiggle room that much narrower.

Attorney Jon Adams, another candidate for the Dem nod in the North, comes with this news:

Don Wiviott has refused to appear at the fourth candidate forum in a row. Wiviott rejected the invitation to attend the last candidate forum of the season at the Santa Ana Star Casino today , from 5:30pm to 8:00pm. Wiviott has only met with the public under highly structured conditions...Why is Don hiding?" Chides Adams.

We're going to send you over to Monty Newman's site so you can see the spot that has him on the move in the GOP battle for the southern NM congressional nod. It's a direct appeal to evangelical Republicans in a five way race. It might not work in a two way contest, but with this populous voting bloc finally hearing a direct appeal--Monty's campaign confirms he is sitting in a church when he delivers his money lines--it is moving the numbers and giving the former Hobbs mayor a chance to make this contest a one-on-one between him and restaurant chain owner Ed Tinsley.

Newman minces no words in going after the religious conservatives of southern NM: "We need to bring pro-faith, pro-life values to Washington, and that's why I approved this message," says Newman while sitting in a church pew, stained glass visible in the background.

Will it be the spot that changes the most heated congressional primary contest of 2008? Will we look back and say that was the game-changer? It could be. So far it has been the economic conservative message that has dominated. Social conservatives have been left watching the parade pass them by. Until now.

It's interesting that the two best TV performers in all of our state's congressional contests turn out to be two guys from the so-called redneck south. Tinsley and Newman are as smooth as a baby goose's behind when that camera light comes on. Watching this thing finish on Election Night may be like a sauna--all we can do is wait and sweat. We get in the KANW 89.1 FM sweatbox at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.


The winning streak continues for KRQE-TV at 10 p.m. Its newscast once again topped the May ratings in the ABQ market. The CBS affiliate scored a 9.1 rating, compared to 7.7 for KOB. KOAT came in third with a 7.2 rating.

KOB let go weatherman Larry Rice right after the ratings period concluded. Scuttlebutt has Shar Spalding, another KOB forecaster, taking his slot.


In our continuing efforts to bring you the best Web campaign coverage, blog photographer Mark Bralley gives us this photo essay of what could be President Bush's last visit to ABQ. He reports:

Fran Macintyre is a volunteer with Roadrunner Food Bank, Friends for the Library and New Mexico AIDS Services. Bush awarded Macintyre the President's Volunteer Service Award, after disembarking Air Force One at Kirtland Air Force Base, before heading to a North Valley Fundraiser for Sheriff Darren White's Congressional District 1 campaign.White was not at the airplane and all other dignitaries (read Base Commander and staff) were hidden by the presidential SUV. Congratulations, Fran.

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