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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bill's Polling Plunge; Slips Below 50% Approval; Our Exclusive Analysis, Plus: Udall Expands Lead Over Pearce, And: The Obama Visit; Like A Movie 

Even Big Bill is shrinking in this sour political environment. For the first time in memory, the New Mexico Governor's approval rating has slipped below 50%, signaling the deep dissatisfaction voters have with all things incumbent. Some analysts also say the drop may reflect some dismay at Richardson's poor performance in the presidential sweepstakes and his subsequent loss of national prestige. The Rasmussen poll taken June 19 shows 47% of 500 likely voters rating the Guv's performance as excellent or good. Twenty-seven percent say he's doing only a fair job and 24% believe the chief executive is turning in a poor performance. Since being elected in 2002, Richardson's approval rating has generally ranged from the mid 50's to the low 60's. For example, at the start of his 2006 re-election campaign his internal polls showed his approval at 56%. He went north from there and was re-elected with an historic 69% margin.

Dem pollster and consultant Harry Pavlides summed up the common reaction to Bill's polling plunge.

"I'm a bit surprised by the numbers. I think the general unhappiness with the direction of the country is leaking in to the performance ratings of all incumbents. Also, voters may be reacting to his presidential campaign. It did not end on a high note and he was out of the state for a good period of time."

There does not seem to be a Richardson specific incident (they don't like the beard?) that has triggered the slide, first hinted at in the May Survey USA poll that had Bill's approval number at 56%. It's an important distinction because if voters are unhappy with incumbents, they are also unhappy with the NM Legislature, which may keep too much air from leaking from Bill's balloon. Supporting the theory that all incumbents are getting a boot in the butt is the approval rating of NM Dem US Senator Jeff Bingaman in the May SurveyUSA poll. He comes in at 58%, down from the low 60's that he often scores.

Other surveys show a stunning 80% of the nation believes the USA is headed in the wrong direction. It's no wonder anyone associated with running any level of government is going to struggle to convince voters they are doing an effective job.

FRESH SENATE NUMBERS

Rasmussen also came with numbers in the NM Prez and US Senate race Monday. First the Senate where Dem Tom Udall continues to hold a commanding lead over Republican Steve Pearce. It's Udall 58% and Pearce 30%, Udall has grown his margin from 53% in the previous month's poll. The poll's margin of error is 4.5%. The poll questioned 500 likely voters on Thursday, June 19.

WHAT NOW, STEVE?

Pearce has nowhere to go but up, but he is saddled with the tarnished Republican brand, the very unpopular President Bush and the challenge of either selling his deeply conservative message or moving toward the center. It's a deep hole to dig out of. Still, NM history suggests the race will tighten. Jeff Bingaman won with 53.8% when he ousted incumbent Jack Schmitt in '82. And Jeff came in with 54% when he held off a challenge from Colin McMillan in '94, numbers to keep in mind as we track this race in which we assume both sides will be well-financed.

You have to use a magnifying glass to find good news for Pearce in this poll, but there is some. He is currently winning only 69% of the Republican vote. This, after a divisive primary with Heather Wilson who attacked him in TV ads and who won the endorsement of Senator Pete Domenici. With the help of Domenici and Wilson, Pearce should be able to bump that number considerably. But Udall is polling 64% among female voters. Clearly, the Democratic congressman from the north has a lot of rope to burn and Pearce needs to start lighting matches.

The danger for Pearce is that the race could be written off by major financial donors and the national pundits. However, Pearce will likely avoid that fate. Udall has had the TV airwaves to himself since the June primary and, unlike Pearce, avoided a divisive primary. My analysts say his 58% is probably soft enough to be whittled down, but for Pearce to make a serious run at victory he will need mistakes from Udall and a change in the news backdrop which right now is downright miserable for the party of the elephant.

PREZ NUMBERS, TOO

It was just yesterday that we blogged about Obama's 50% to 41% NM lead over John McCain in the May Rasmussen. Not much changed in June. Obama still leads. The June numbers are 47% to 39%. The race can be expected to tighten, but this seems more like 200o when Dem Gore carried NM, not 2004, when Bush took it narrowly. Again, the anti-incumbent, time-for-a-change mood is driving the campaign. McCain still has a chance to define himself as the change agent and there could be some booby traps for Obama--possible weakness among Hispanics and southern NM coming on strong for the Arizona senator are two possibilities. Things look encouraging for Obama, but like Udall, some of the electorate remains softly attached at this early stage of the game.

OBAMA'S VISIT

A sleepy summer Monday in ABQ provided the perfect backdrop for Obama’s latest visit here, allowing him to dominate TV news--his primary goal--without much exertion. His town hall meeting at the warehouse of the popular Flying Star restaurant chain was a TV studio in waiting for the Illinois senator. If there was any threat of a drop of authenticity oozing out from the gathering of three dozen "working women," it was quickly extinguished. Such is the way of Prez campaigns these days.

After the town hall, the candidate made time for interviews with the ABQ TV stations. Well, not much time--the stations were each granted two minute interviews. (See the interviews here.) We're told that Obama also had a $5,000 a person fundraiser while here. Donations over $2300, the limit an individual can give to Obama for the general election, apparently went to the national Dem party.

Obama's event was tagged "invitation only" which is a strange term for a campaign that is fighting charges of elitism. Not that the campaign doesn't have reason for carefully controlled events. The masses would probably swarm the candidate if they figured out where he was.

Even as he got out his message of unifying women behind his candidacy after a tough campaign with Hillary, the casual spectator may have been left wanting. Like being hungry an hour after finishing the proverbial Chinese dinner. The contrived nature of these presidential stops--by both parties--leaves no room for a genuine moment to break out. But if one ever does, there's a good chance it will happen here in our little ol' swing state. That's enough to keep us tuned in even as this campaign starts to look like a filming for a made for TV movie.

OBAMA NM DIRECTOR & BILL'S SPECIAL
Barack by Bralley in ABQ
I thought I was going to wrap up, but more stuff is coming in. One of my Alligators reports that Adrian Saenz, who headed up Obama's Texas Dem primary campaign, will soon be named the NM state director for the Obama campaign. Adrian previously served as chief of staff to US Rep. Ciro Rodriguez of Texas.

And yesterday we blogged about Big Bill and how he said he might not get a health care deal from a Special Session of the NM Legislature, but he would call one anyway. We could not find the quote then, but we now have it from a Barry Massey AP report that ran in the ABQ Journal.

"I want some serious progress on health care in the special. Hopefully, a good comprehensive package. If not, we finish in the regular session," Richardson said.

Again, the point being that the Guv appears to want to call a Special for August or September, even if he does not have a deal in hand.

THE BOTTOM LINES
V.B. Price
Author, poet and political commentator V.B. Price has been getting New Mexicans to think about their state for better than forty years. He is the very definition of an ink-stained wretch, but in this new century, with the demise of his longtime home, the ABQ Tribune, Price finds himself challenging his readers via the Web. A proud and unabashed liberal, Price is now writing on-line for the NM Independent, a namesake of the iconoclastic newspaper he helped start in the early 70's with the now deceased Mark Acuff and which is remembered fondly by longtime politicos. Price comes from an era when policy disagreements were passionate, but rarely personal. There's a lesson there for the new generation of writers--if they care to last.

Thanks for making us the Southwest's #1 political blog. I' m Joe Monahan, reporting to you from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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