Monday, August 18, 2008

Politial Action Explodes; Obama & McCain Set Visits; Hillary In Espanola, And: Conservative Money Comes For Pearce, Plus: Senate TV Debates Set 

Someone flipped the switch and Campaign '08 lit up like a farolito bonfire on Christmas Eve. Hillary made it to Espanola Sunday; Obama is in ABQ today; McCain is in Las Cruces for a townhall Wednesday; and a special session of the NM Legislature wound its way through a watery weekend in Santa Fe. And it's not going to slow down much between now and Election Day in this swing state of ours. One mystery, however, is sure to endure. Just why does a state with a population yet to touch two million and which looks hardly anything like the "regular" USA, every four years become one of the best predictors of who will take the White House? Barack Obama and John McCain are the latest in a long line of would-be presidents who have searched for the answer as zealously as Coronado searched for the Seven Cities of Gold here. Unlike Coronado, there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for one of our modern-day explorers, but it takes a lot of time and effort looking in the state's nooks and crannies to discover the treasure.

For Obama, the most treasured demographic of them all right now is Hispanic Democrats. Without a big showing by this traditional Dem voting block, he won't have to worry about all those "Reagan Democrats" up for grabs because he will surely lose if the state's most Democratic group is not nailed down and nailed down good. To that end., Obama becomes a Raven today--as in Rio Grande High School Raven. He travels deep into the home of La Politica--in ABQ's South Valley--to begin the process of bringing home Hispanics who voted nearly 40% for Bush in '04 and helped him win the state.

Kerry had abortion and gay marriage hung around his neck by Catholics and other religious conservatives--especially in the Spanish North where the church's reign dates back 400 years. African-Americans are relative strangers to the Hispanic New Mexican political tradition. Obama needs to make fast friends.

It would have been a boost for Barack if he was able to hang with Hillary In Espanola in Rio Arriba County Sunday. The Clinton brand remains strong as witnessed by the enthusiastic greeting she received there before heading south to Santa Fe and ABQ for two separate fundraisers to help retired her presidential debt, and trade White House campaign gossip with Big Bill--who shares with Hillary the pain of losing the Prez race, although he was put out of his misery early in the race.


It was the retirement of Senator Pete Domenici that set in motion the once-in-a-lifetime political events we are witnessing this cycle, and the reviews of Domenici's career are being mixed in with the hectic campaigns. Here's one of the first from the las Cruces Sun-News.

Hill & Bill
In Espanola, crowd estimates ranged from 500 to 800 for Hillary Clinton's Sunday afternoon campaign rally featuring a plea by Hill, decked out in a turquoise outfit and matching turquoise jewelry, for Hispanic Dems to back Obama now that she is gone from the contest. Big Bill, Light Guv Denish, Tom Udall, Senator Bingaman and northern congressional contender Ben Ray Lujan shared the stage with her. There was one PR problem associated with the visit as described by an Alligator on the scene: "The trip was not planned by her staff, but controlled by Obama's campaign...Unfortunately, there was a youth dance group that had to be canceled in order to hold the rally. While it makes her look bad on the ten o'clock news; the decision to cancel the youth dancers was solely the Obama folks and not the Clinton's."

Hillary attended fund-raisers hosted by former Big Bill campaign manager Dave Contarino in Santa Fe and an ABQ fund-raiser hosted by Downs of ABQ racetrack owner Paul Blanchard. There was also a reception at the El Pinto restaurant in the ABQ North Valley for the NM delegates who will go to the Dem national convention pledged to Hillary. Our Alligator reports: "Hillary spent about an hour talking to us, taking pictures and signing autographs. She seemed in great spirits and had dinner on the patio with (Lt. Guv) Diane (Denish) and Herb (Denish).


New Mexico's Legislature isn't helping advance Big Bill's cause with Obama. The state Senate, to no one's surprise, exploded in acrimony Sunday as the special session called by the Guv went into its third day. Those will be interesting headlines for Obama to glance at while in ABQ today, but it's not as if the Guv wasn't warned. It appears the lawmakers will pass taxpayer rebates, but much smaller than Bill proposed.


The conservative Club for Growth which came for GOP US Senate nominee Steve Pearce with $275,000 in TV time in his primary with Heather Wilson, is back. Sunday we saw their first ad hitting Dem nominee and praising Pearce for their stands on offshore drilling, among other maters. No word yet on how much the Club is spending for Pearce, but it is only mid-August and they're already up. Maybe that's why Pearce has been reluctant to tap his personal fortune. The Club and other third party groups could make up a big chunk of the cash shortfall he is experiencing.


The Udall campaign wasn't looking for a fight with the big ABQ TV stations, and it won't get one now that they have agreed to hold three TV debates--October 15th, KOB-4, October 18th, KRQE-13 and October 26th, KOAT-7. Udall and GOP nominee Pearce will also appear on a segment of NBC's "Meet the Press." Initially, the Udall camp wanted MTP counted toward the three statewide TV debates they said they would take part in. But they are no longer counting MTP, so we will get the three prime time debates as well as the MTP on a Sunday morning. The Pearce camp say they forced the issue; the Udall camp says they were not responding to pressure. The first two debates come as early voting gets underway, giving early voters the chance to see the two contenders debate before casting a vote.

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