Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hill Gives Them Chills; Denver Swoons, Plus: Darren & Martin's Wasted Summer, And: R's Ring Bell Again On Noel 

Hillary Clinton's speech before the Democratic National Convention in Denver last night may have been too good. It could cause some buyer's remorse over Obama. Clinton, in a powerful, confident stemwinder "hit a huge home run--a five hundred foot home run," analyzed Big Bill on national cable. It was hard to argue with him.

The essential appeal of Clinton--the toughness and steeliness of character that has brought her to the summit of the American political experience--was emotionally summarized as she recounted the Underground Railroad of slavery days.

On that path to freedom, Harriet Tubman had one piece of advice. If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If they're shouting after you, keep going. Don't ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going. And even in the darkest of moments, that is what Americans have done. We have found the faith to keep going.

If that didn't send a tingle up your leg as Obama did for Chris Matthews, it surely sent a chill up your All-American spine.

Hill's full-throated endorsement of Obama had the Pepsi Center roof rattling and Republican knees knocking. It was just what the doctor ordered for a party that too often goes vegetarian when red meat is required. This is one gal who likes her steak and knows how to cook it.

How important was Hillary's speech for Obama? We were speaking last night before a small group of New Mexico independent bankers--over half of whom were probably Republican women. Prior to our talk, the MC requested that I not go past a particular time. "They want to see Hillary's speech," he advised. Hillary may be a partisan Democrat, but her candidacy became much bigger than her. Maybe the stepping stone to the next chapter of our politics in which women become routine occupants of the nation's highest office.


One of our insiders noted that Big Bill told national TV last night that he and former President Clinton have yet to talk. Bill said something to the effect that Hillary has been much quicker to forgive him for not endorsing her in NM's prez caucus. He said it takes the former president, who he described as a friend, longer to come around and let the peace be made.


Slow Starters: White & Heinrich
Call it the wasted summer. What was expected to be a lively scrap between two candidates poles apart turned into a bust. We speak of the contest for the ABQ US House seat featuring Democrat Martin Heinrich and Republican Darren White. Why has this campaign for a rare open US House seat turned out to be the Big Bore of the summer of Campaign '08? And what does it mean when the action finally gets underway in earnest next month?

The lack of notable activity has been a detriment more for Dem Heinrich. The R's have held the ABQ congressional seat since its inception. It is up to the Dem contender to take it to the R, in this case Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White. But Heinrich has done little, if anything, so far to puncture White's law and order image.

Heinrich's press operation has gone through changes, which explains some, but not all of the lack of aggressiveness that has plagued the Dem effort. It has to be presumed that the style reflects the personality of the candidate. White has struck twice with direct mail pieces to the West Side, but not much else. He took a hit for misrepresenting a photo op with UNM Lobo basketball coach Steve Alford, but the Dems and Heinrich let it slide.

Some key reasons for the too quiet congressional campaign:

---Heinrich and White have both been hamstrung by a lack of money. The big bucks that poured into the ABQ seat in '06 are not here this time because majority control of the US House is not at stake. The Dems have it and are not going to lose it whether Heinrich or White is elected. That dampens enthusiasm among the monied interest groups.

---Both Heinrich and White seem tentative. While both have been elected to office, they are now on a much larger stage. It shows. Both candidates seem frozen, unwilling to do anything bold, or even colorful.

---Heinrich is unknown. The Democrats did not do anything from June to August to boost his name ID. That could be a fateful decision.

Heinrich and White will be plenty known come October. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will be up with a $1.3 million TV buy for Heinrich starting, say my media insiders, around September 22. White and the R's won't be left behind. But the groundwork for taking out a semi-incumbent like White was not laid in the summer months. And White lost an opportunity to solidify his standing.

The lack of gusto by these congressional campaigns contradicts the electorate's desire for new faces and change. They want leadership, but instead they are getting players seemingly fearful of taking shots or risks. The summer can't be over soon enough.


Interestingly, on Tuesday, perhaps addressing the campaign drift we and others are seeing in this race, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee came with this cable TV ad for Heinrich. It is a mild rejoinder of White's association with Bush. But cable TV is to spin those of us who handicap the races plus hardcore supporters. DC Democrats seem to be hearing what we're hearing. As for Martin and Darren, maybe they should watch some tapes of '06 combatants Patsy and Heather. Those two knew how to get it done.


Ralph Nader spent Tuesday in ABQ and Santa Fe, hunting for votes for his fifth run at the White House. His money quote: "As long as young people are subjected to the Obama snare and delusion, they'll continue to have a ring in their nose and will provide the Democratic Party with the tether." Nader said.

Sec. Herrera
We didn't expect GOP complaints about the hiring of Tom Udall's son-in-law to have much legs, but KOB-TV called us late in the day for reaction to the R's filing of a Freedom of Information Act request seeking information from Secretary of State Herrera on Jim Noel's hiring as elections director. R's said they want to see any communications Mary had with Big Bill about hiring Noel, an attorney who is married to Tom Udall's stepdaughter and Senate campaign manager Amanda Cooper. The R's also threw in the name of Eli Lee, he of political nonprofit fame, asking if he ws involved in the hiring.

"We are requesting the Secretary of State release all documents pertaining to his hiring including letters of recommendation, resume and references. Tom Udall claims to be for a new change in Washington, but with the hiring of his close family member to count Election Day votes, he has proven he has nothing new to offer voters.”

Even if the hiring is proven political and guided by the Fourth Floor, it's hard to see any legal issue. But in the fight for the power of the US Senate seat, any chink in a candidate's armor is going to be filled with lead. State R's are doing the firing for Udall Senate opponent Steve Pearce who is laying low on this one. Also, the R's keep saying Noel will be counting Election Day votes. But the Election Night count is conducted by individual county clerks. Noel could play a role in supervising or assisting with the certification of the results or a recount.

We were interviewed on this story with KOB-TV for their 10 p.m Tuesday newscast.


Reader Luciano Baca in Santa Fe has a response to GOP criticism of the hiring of Noel:

GOP leaders are aghast at the hiring of Noel by the secretary of state. Were any of them concerned in 2000 when the Florida Secretary of State headed the Bush campaign in that state? Or 2004 when the Ohio served as campaign chairman of the Bush bid for reelection? Ironic, isn't it?


They need to put a medical warning on this video before allowing any Republican to view it. Onetime Prez contender and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich knows how to deliver an old fashioned barnburner. You have the floor, Dennis. R's consult your doctors before viewing. You have been warned.


From the Dem national convention in Denver and reporter Jeff Jones: "Sorta weird: Many of these reporters traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to catch the big show--only to catch most of it from closed-circuit TVs inside the press center."


Some of the press boys are having fun.


ABQ Dem State Rep. Moe Maestas gives us this cool floor shot from the Denver confab. Rep. Udall, Speaker Ben Lujan and his wife, and tucked in the corner is Lady Di. Is that political consultant Mark Fleisher barely noticeable behind Tom? Sure is. If he's in Denver, you know the party is on.


So who was that lady whose head appeared glued to the shoulder of Senator Bingaman in our recent photo caption contest? Well, it turns out she reads your blog:

I just saw the picture and want to identify myself and assure your faithful readers that I was sitting a respectable distance behind Senator Bingaman and other distinguished Democrats at the Obama event last week. Appearing on your blog has given me the big head. Thanks for the recognition. Marg Elliston.

We're glad to have the "heads up," Marg...Public Regulation Commissioner Jason Marks is up with cable TV ads in the ABQ market. The Dem is going for a second four year term on the PRC and faces a tough battle in the GOP leaning district with challenger and Bernalillo County Commissioner Tim Cummins.

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