Monday, September 22, 2008
Big Mo: The Pendulum Swings Again; Where The Key Races Are Right Now, Plus: Forget Crackers, This Polly Wants A Pearce
First a tsunami, then a puddle, now maybe a tropical storm. That, according to the up and down polls, have been the forecasts for New Mexico Democrats in Campaign '08. Was it only 11 days ago that we were blogging that the Dem "Tsunami" had turned to a puddle? Well, the tsunami may or may not be back but national and state surveys and conversations with politicos and Alligators show a tropical force force wind at the back of Obama and ABQ congressional hopeful Martin Heinrich. Even southern Congressional contender Harry Teague has a bit of wind at his back.
It is tantalizing enough that it has some Dems renewing fantasies of the unheard of triple play--a sweep of all three US House seats, not to mention the probable takeover of the Domenici Senate seat by Tom Udall. But they're not counting on it. We all know about New Mexico weather--it changes often and without much notice. We saw that with the GOP's post-Palin surge. Now we're seeing the economic crisis putting the Dems again firmly in the driver's seat. Will there be another storm that will shift momentum yet again? Who knows, which is why the Dems wish this election were being held today. The horses at the political track run regardless of the weather, so let's head on out.
HEINRICH VS WHITE
White & Heinrich
Martin Heinrich, despite being largely unfamiliar to the ABQ electorate, appears to have a slight lead and is acting like it. Obama has a healthy cushion in Bernalillo County and the Dems think the former ABQ city councilor can ride his wave in. That's one reason why Heinrich isn't keen on TV debates with Republican rival Darren White. A big mistake by Heinrich could tame the wave.
Heinrich has the lead among crucial independents in the ABQ US House district. White is pledging in his first TV ad to be an "independent voice." Now you know why. Like Heather Wilson before him, White runs strong in the rural areas of the district. If he is going to lose, it will be in big Bernalillo where many voters may not know Heinrich, but don't want to vote for a Republican. That's how tarnished the R brand has become.
The race is tight, and neither contender wants to be first with nuclear TV, but it is coming. Someones hand will be forced. R's are hoping White did not wait too long to define Heinrich--where was he all summer, they ask? Are Dems and indys already solidifying and not available for conversion to White? And Dems wonder if Heinrich is assuming too much and needs to come out of hiding and start hitting.
Both candidates, freshman to the big leagues of La Politica, are being heavily handled by the DC crowd. White has not raised the big money R's usually do here. And for a guy with a reputation as a press hog, he and his communications staff have created precious few "free media" plays. Heinrich has spent a lot of money. Maybe on stuff he shouldn't have. One thing is for sure--one of these guys should have been out there consistently punching since the June primary. We 'll know which one Election Night. As we write, this contest looks closer than Lassie and Timmy.
TEAGUE VS TINSLEY
Teague appears to be slightly ahead, but can he keep the lead and make history in the southern congressional district where the last Democrat elected was Harold Runnels in 1980? Heinrich is better suited to catch a Dem wave than Teague who must deal with Republican McCain who is running well in the south, not to mention GOP US Senate candidate Steve Pearce, the current southern US representative. Republican Ed Tinsley came with another debate challenge last week, so you know he is aware that he has to go after the Hobbs oil man. He still believes he contrasts favorably on the podium with Teague, despite an early campaign gaffe that cost Tinsley.
The district has so much Republican DNA in its blood that Dem enthusiasm is tempered. Teague has built an initial lead based on significant strength in Dona Ana County--the district's most populous--and takes that into the final stretch when Republicans make their move. And, as we've noted many times, Teague hails from Lea County, where the GOP usually puts up big totals, a trend hometowner Dem Teague could defy. Teague is up with another negative radio ad today calling Tinsley a "rich guy from Santa Fe" as he works to keep the Capitan rancher in place. Of course, Harry is probably a good deal richer than Ed, and fretful Dems say he needs negative TV on Tinsley, not just radio--and soon. Concerned R's ask when will Ed come with ads accusing Harry of being a dreaded "liberal" and other scary stuff that will start the ball rolling over to their side of the aisle.
The well-financed Teague is making a good show of it, but we need to see how he takes a punch before this one moves out of the "lean R" category.
UDALL VS PEARCE
Tom Udall is as fit as a butchers dog. He needs to make a mistake, maybe more than one, if Republican Steve Pearce is to get turbocharged. Also, Pearce needs to find a way to not get blown out in the moderate ABQ area.
Udall has come with a humorous ad featuring a parrot named "Polly Big Oil" to deflect Pearce's ongoing negative TV. He can afford to be funny because Pearce has hit the wall in the polling. Forget the crackers, this Polly wants a Pearce. Hey, do you think if we get tired of Tom and Steve, we can write-in the parrot?
Meanwhile, in his latest ad Pearce is calling Tom "breathtakingly liberal," but is that message going to resonate with swing voters and independents or is Pearce still working to seal the deal with conservatives?
Obama and Udall are running strong in the north. Up-to-date polling does not detect a Hispanic problem for either. Could one still be out there? If so, it will be more for Obama than Udall who represents the district in the US House. Pearce is running well in the south, but not yet as strong as he needs. The ABQ metro is in the Udall camp and blocking Pearce from getting close.
While Obama will blow the doors off in places like Santa Fe County, Udall is positioned to be the top NM Democratic vote-getter this cycle.
That's today's weather report. If you don't like it, hang around. The weather around here can turn on a dime.
THE FIELD GAME
You've heard about the strong field game Obama is putting together in our swing state, but McCain isn't exactly doing nothing. He now has ten field offices to Obama's nearly three dozen. An out-of-state blogger, partial to Obama, last week dropped in on both NM campaigns and offers what seems a fair assessment of where that aspect of the campaign stands.
The pollsters are doing their best to nail down what role race will play when it comes to Obama's candidacy. It remains anyone's guess, but the studies are intriguing.
THE BOTTOM LINES
She's back, if she was ever gone. A reader says they spotted ABQ GOP US Rep. Wilson on MSNBC Friday. This after another reader said she had disappeared from the tube, speculating that her office being mentioned in connection with the Abramoff lobbying scandal may have caused McCain's campaign to pull the plug on her...
Real Clear Politics says NM has gone from a "toss-up" in the prez race to a "lean Obama." Here are all the polls....Some top political types believe Colorado is the most important state in the nation for the presidential race. Big Bill was campaigning there over the weekend for Obama, appealing in particular to a large Hispanic population in the south of the state, an area that long, long ago was part of the New Mexico Territory.
Have a commenton or off the record? News to pass on? E-mail it in.
(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
Not for reproduction without permission of the author