Monday, September 08, 2008

The Final Fourteen: We're In It As Prez Battle Narrows, Plus: Movie Star Redford For Udall, And: Our Barelas Lunch Bunch 

GOP Ticket Buys El Pinto Salsa
So, New Mexico's Lobos aren't going to make the Final Four and the UNM football Lobos are hemorrhaging like a Roadrunner slammed by a speeding Bill Richardson in a souped up Lincoln Navigator. Take heart. All is not lost. On the field of La Politica, our little land is getting a respite from its long-term inferiority complex. There, our linebackers dominate and our jump shots are all no-net three pointers. California and New York? Mere electoral pipsqueaks. For when it comes to the Final Fourteen states that will decide this historic presidential election, it's New Mexico on the court and the big boys on the bench. There wasn't a nationally televised news conference to announce the draft picks for the final stretch of Campaign '08, but the campaigns giving the word to the New York Times was an equivalent substitute. And here they are: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin.

Take that, Texas A&M. You did a fine job Saturday of trouncing those Lobos and stealing Rocky Long's newly-enlarged wallet. But when it comes to the game that counts, Texas isn't even in the bleacher seats. Next time, if you treat us nice, we might send Barack or John over for a visit. Or maybe even Sarah. Meantime, you lose the big game on a forfeit.


Now, some bad news about being on the Final Fourteen battleground list. There is special responsibility that goes with this accolade. New Mexicans, the focus of worldwide media attention, will now be required to know the names of all five of Sarah Palin's children--in order of birth. And, while Californians and New Yorkers just need to know the candidates and what party they belong to, here in Final Fourteen land, you are on notice to know the first name of McCain's 96 year old mother, the list of drugs Obama experimented with, all the names of the Keating Five and how many cases of Budweiser Cindy's beer company ships each month. After all, you don't want to let your state down when CNN sticks a microphone in front of you. So let's get cracking, New Mexico. Open those Wikpedias. You do want to make the Final Four, don't you?


The presidential contenders never have New Mexico far from their minds. Kind of like that friend you mostly trust, but not enough to loan them your car. So they keep coming back, trying to cement the relationship; to gain the trust they must in the end have to secure the state's vital five electoral votes. This weekend it was the May-December match-up of McCain-Palin rolling into town and September 18th it will be Obama's fifth NM stop and his first venture into the heavily Democratic Spanish North. McCain hasn't reached that far north yet, either. But he got a warm up taste at El Pinto in ABQ Sunday before leaving for Battleground Missouri. (See our Sunday blog for more.)

There's no reason to believe Obama isn't ahead here. Polls indicate it and he has over 30 field offices up and running. A Republican acquaintance in the GOP laden ABQ NE Heights checks in with the news that his home has already been visited three times by Obama volunteers. The Obamaites are going deep into enemy territory and it is having an impact.

Not that McCain is a slouch. The R's, never ones to match the field operations of the Dems, are starting to awaken. Phone banks are operating and a friend reports she received an absentee ballot application last week from the McCain campaign. But this a notoriously independent state when it comes to federal elections. While the unquestionable trend is Democratic, McCain is not seen as a doctrinaire R. His pop star running mate--Sarah Palin--might be viewed that way before long, but that could help galvanize the conservatives even more for the man at the top of the ticket.


Obama's race is an issue and, yes, there are some racists out there, but many observers we speak with think it is more an issue of unfamiliarity with Obama and African-American politicians in this heavily Hispanic state. His repeated visits--and those of his wife--are aimed at slowly dissolving any fear the unfamiliarity fosters. On the 18th he will likely stop in either Rio Arriba or San Miguel counties and for the first time confront this question.

Obama's gift is his ability to empathize and motivate. McCain's gift is his pertinacity and indefatigability. It is not easy for truly independent minded voters to make up their minds between these two strong characters. That's a prime reason why our state remains in play; why the persistent pair will be coming here again and again and why, eventually, undecided voters here will trust one of them enough to loan them the car keys.

When Tom Udall first sought his northern NM US House seat film star Robert Redford was one of his first supporters, attending an event for his fellow environmentalist in that '98 contest. Flash forward ten years and Redford, 72, is back supporting Udall and attending a fund-raising event. This time for Tom's US Senate bid. It will happen Tuesday night at the Corrales home of Sandoval County Commissioner Donnie Leonard and Sandoval County administrator Donna Wylie. A photo with Redford is going for $1,000 and a reception for $250.


A debate is in the works at KRQE-TV between ABQ congressional hopefuls Darrren White and Martin Heinrich. That word from news legend Dick Knipfing, who tells us the time and date are being firmed up, but he does expect it to be in prime-time on the CBS affiliate. Anchor Knipfing, in the game since '64, says he will pose questions in the face-off. The early handicapping among the Alligators has Heinrich with a slight upper hand in any TV debates. He is more practiced with a variety of issues, having served as a city councilor and as state natural resources trustee. White's experience has been more confined to law enforcement. Still, these are two novices when it comes to the statewide TV stage. Neither have been particularly bold during the campaign. Maybe the TV lights will get their juices flowing.


That free lunch we hosted for the winner of our photo caption contest grew a bit larger than we anticipated, and that was for the better. We met up with caption winner Phil Carter and his friend, Sarah Rose, at Barelas Coffeehouse to pay him off in enchiladas and chicharrones. We bumped into Dem State Rep. candidate Eliseo Lee Alcon, his wife and their three year old granddaughter, Kyltte, who was the best-behaved of the bunch, sitting patiently and attentively through an elongated summer lunch. Now if only the candidates this year could be so well-mannered.

Pictured right to left is Alcon holding granddaughter Kytlle, caption winner Phil Carter; his friend Sarah Rose; your blogger and Alcon's wife, Darlene. Snapper Bralley had to shoot the pic, but we did feed him.

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