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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

TV Blizzard: Insiders Say $25 Million In '08 Ads, Plus: White With First Hard Negative In ABQ Race, And: Fernando's Folly; GOP Shuns Him & Shivers 

A blizzard of ads unlike any other in the modern era has snowed under New Mexico television viewers and before it's all over TV insiders say total NM 2008 campaign ad spending will reach a staggering $25 million. They say $18 million has already been spent or committed. If we're not at the saturation stage already, we are close. Just about every commercial break in or near any news broadcast is taken over by political ads. Viewers e-mail that they are already overloaded and some are turning away. But this deal is just getting started.

No sooner had we wondered here Monday on which candidate in the heated ABQ congressional race would fire the first really hard, negative shot and we had an answer. It's Darren White. The GOP contender unveiled an attack ad on Dem Martin Heinrich on the tried and true tax issue, accusing Heinrich of being in the tax increase corner. (See it here.) Meanwhile, Heinrich, who has been running a semi-humorous ad slamming White and Bush on energy, came with a new biography spot Monday, addressing worries among state Dems that he is not yet known enough to withstand White's efforts to negatively define him.

The two term Bernalillo County sheriff is finding that his association with Bush--being pounded home on the network affiliates by the national Dems--is helping to keep him down. His pledge to be an "independent voice" still needs be backed up with public positions and paid media; Obama's field organization is digging deep in Bernalillo County; yet more polling released Monday shows a continued Dem trend in the wake of the economic crisis; and being an incumbent--any incumbent--does not necessarily give you a leg up in this election year with an electorate desperate for change.

Given this precarious backdrop for White in a district that has never gone Dem, the hard-hitting tax hit on Heinrich is needed and probably worth a point or two among some conservatives, but aren't voters more concerned about keeping their jobs and having economic security rather than their tax bills?

White's hit ad is in heavy rotation, and Heinrich won't be long in hitting back. What Republicans thought would be a lay-up is now getting very interesting. Somebody crank up the "Rocky" soundtrack. We've got a fight on our hands.

POLLING MANIA

The polls--both public and private--are like the TV ads--coming in a deluge. But the one most awaited by New Mexican politicos is going to be a while in coming. Word circulated Monday that there will be no September polling from pollster Brian Sanderoff and the ABQ Journal. It is expected the paper will do two surveys in October. Politics watchers like the Sanderoff survey because of its tight screening for likely voters and its long history in the state.

The latest public poll for NM shows the recent Dem trend that began with the calamitous financial news continuing. Obama leads McCain here 53% to 42% in the Public Policy Polling. (Was this an Espanola visit bounce?) In the Senate race, Dem Tom Udall beats Republican Steve Pearce by 20 points. It's Udall 57% and Pearce 37%. Obama gets 59% Hispanic support in this survey, compared to McCain's 35%. Obama and Governor Richardson want to finish with 65 to 70 percent Hispanic support. The poll was taken Sept.17- 19 among 1,037 likely voters. MOE is +/-3.0 percent.

FERNANDO'S FOLLY
C de Baca
You don't need a poll to know that Bernalillo County GOP Chairman Fernando C de Baca has lost the confidence of fellow R's and will likely make an exit soon from the brightly lit stage of La Politica. The 70 year old political warhorse--a veteran of the Nixon and Ford administrations--came down with a severe case of of foot and mouth disease when he told a blogger from the BBC late last week:

"The truth is that Hispanics came here as conquerors," he said. "African-Americans came here as slaves. Hispanics consider themselves above blacks. They won't vote for a black president."

Those comments, Fernando told KKOB-AM radio's Peter St. Cyr, were taken out of context; that they were what his grandfather's generation believed, not him. But the foot was in the mouth and wasn't coming out. A stream of GOP officials, including NM GOP Chair Allen Weh and Vice-Chair Jon Barela, called for Fernando to step down. Also joining the chorus was congressional hopeful Darren White. Senator Domenici at first held his fire a bit, saying he wanted to talk with C de Baca before calling on him to quit. But after trying to reach the embattled chairman, Pete said it was time for Fernando to go.

Monday night C de Baca was vowing to fight on calling the blog report inaccurate and scored Weh for insisting on his resignation.(Video coverage here and here.) UPDATE: C de Baca was supported by the county GOP executive committee at a meeting Tuesday morning. He says he will not resign his post.

THE BACK STORY

Weh
There's a back story here, and one you will only get from the Alligators. C de Baca is in a vicious feud with Chairman Weh over the direction of the party and has been seen as a possible replacement for Weh who leaves the post soon after the November election. Notable R's, including Darren White, Heather Wilson, lawyer-lobbyist Mickey Barnett, RNC operative Jay McCleskey and Senator Domenici Chief of Staff Steve Bell are all aligned with Weh. So are an array of campaign consultants who feed off the party. A C de Baca chairmanship would be a threat to all of them, so his misstep was their gift horse. They pounced on him like a lion on its prey.

C de Baca will now no longer be a viable state party chair. Names being mentioned to succeed Chairman Weh include NM GOP Vice-Chair Jon Barela and unsuccessful 2006 US Senate candidate Allen McCulloch, both aligned with the current GOP power structure. Forces aligned with C de Baca, who supported Earl Greer in his ill-fated effort to oust Weh at the last GOP chair election, are without a candidate. Any takers?

By the way, Black slavery was not common in New Mexico because well-to-do landowners here had other labor sources, including Mexican-Americans and Indian slaves.

THE DEBATES

We will get a debate in the ABQ TV market between Dem Harry Teague and R Ed Tinsley in that southern congressional race, but it won't be on in prime time. KOB-TV will air a face-off, but it will be at 4 p.m. October 25. KOAT is also hosting an afternoon debate for the duo. KRQE has no plans to host a debate for the southern district. A public TV debate is slated for prime time, but PBS ratings are minuscule compared to the Big Three. We're thinking that KOB and KOAT could each give a half hour from one of their hour long nighttime newscasts for debates. But the bookkeepers would probably tell us we think too much.

SOLDIER-POLITICIAN

Greg Zanetti has certainly been parlaying his position as as NM National Guard Brig. General at he Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba into a lot of publicity. The ABQ Journal hit with a long piece Sunday. And guess what? At the very end, Zanetti, known as a very conservative R, fessed up that he is thinking about seeking the 2010 GOP Guv nomination. Zanetti is the husband of ABQ State Rep. Teresa Zanetti. He once sought the GOP nod for Lt. Gov.

THE BOTTOM LINES

We turn to KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson for today's bottom lines. He responds to a reader who said the SurveyUSA poll for the NM Senate race did not consist of likely voters. That poll is conducted for the TV station.

Survey USA polled 671 likely voters to get the Udall/Pearce numbers--just like they did Obama/McCain. They started with over 900, weeded out nonvoters, then weeded out unlikely voters to get to the 671. The actual question was asked of 671 likely voters.

Udall was ahead by 15--56% to 41% in that SurveyUSA poll...

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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