Friday, October 10, 2008

Death Knell For Darren? National R's Slash TV Buy; Heinrich Pounces, Plus: The Ambien Debate; Teague & Tinsley Face-Off 

Heinrich & White
There's a memorable line in the pool hustler movie "The Color of Money" that comes to mind in describing the Thursday events that pelted down on La Politica. As the pool shark played by actor Tom Cruise has the table run on him by another hustler, Cruise is brutally and cockily teased with the line: "It's like a nightmare, isn't it? It just keeps getting worse and worse." You could just hear New Mexico Democrats using that line on their backs-against-the-wall Republican foes. And with good reason.

R's across the state were stung as news spread that the national Republican congressional committee was essentially pulling the plug on ABQ GOP congressional hopeful Darren White; that Meet the Press had canceled this Sunday's NM US Senate debate which Republican Steve Pearce badly needed to get a breakout moment and as the stock market crashed yet again, with the Dow shedding seven percent of its value. It was enough to make a Republican strategist fall off the wagon, and several probably did.

Gloating, kicking your opponent when he's down, illegal choke holds. All of it is allowed in the winner take all game of power politics. ABQ Dem congressional hopeful Martin Heinrich, who might be enjoying success selling vacuum cleaners to lonely housewives if he wasn't running for Congress, is learning to use all of them. It was Heinrich's campaign, with unconcealed relish, that disclosed that the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee will not put up $500,000 in TV time it had promised Republican White, a possible death knell for the Sheriff, who is already being heavily outspent by Heinrich and his third party allies. That was the knife; here's the stab:

"It's actually kind of sad. After the hundreds of thousands of dollars Darren raised as chairman of George Bush's reelection campaign you'd think his buddy Bush would help bailout his failed campaign."

The NRCC will put up about $232,000 in tube time for Darren starting October 14th rather than $732,000. He is already lagging in the polls, and now this. His campaign could only feebly spin that he would "have the resources" to continue. What resources are those? A state rebate check from Big Bill?


But spin never dies. In White's case the AP came with a report that quoted TV station officials as saying that the NRCC canceled a buy, but they can't say for which candidate. What? There is some other Republican candidate running for Congress in ABQ? What? The money was all meant for Ed Tinsley? What? Do they have a bridge they want to sell us?

Let's go to a no spin zone and the report of veteran national analyst Stu Rothenberg who confirms the NRCC move:

"The NRCC has scaled back advertising in Nevada’s 3rd district and New Mexico’s 1st district, and the campaign committee is going to have to make key decisions over the next few weeks about which candidates it will try to save and which it will allow to drown slowly."

The embryonic Democratic Tsunami is the cause for White being stripped of his political badge. The recent Journal Poll showed the water seeping into the Sheriff's squad car and covering the floorboards. He scored a measly 41 percent to Heinrich's 43 percent. What's so bad about that? Well, White's name ID is in the 90 percent region. If they already know you and aren't going to vote for you...well...you know the rest of the story, and so do the national Republicans. They're not completely heartless. They were seen throwing Darren a lifesaver while headed out the door. Do those work during Tsunamis?


So could Darren's misfortune be Ed Tinsley's fortune? And maybe Steve Pearce's, too? D.C. insiders were hitting the blog e-mail box with speculation that half of the half-millon or more could stay in NM as the R's try to save what they can during their Noah's Ark period. That means taking a chunk of that ABQ congressional money and perhaps spreading it out between Tinsley and Pearce. Why? Because the south is the driest soil for the R's and the only region left where it appears McCain can get solid footing and make a charge against Obama. Propping up Tinsley is also not a mission without meaning. He could be the last R standing on Election Night, given the conservative history of his district. As for Pearce, like White, his lungs are starting to fill with water, but if he can run stronger, it will help the entire ticket, especially Tinsley.

Pearce is the kind of guy who could find hope in a leper colony, but voters are hanging onto Democrat Tom Udall like a coat rack. And what observers thought was southern Steve's best chance to crack open Tom--a Sunday debate appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press"-- fell through when the program canceled the session citing the nation's financial crisis. NBC didn't cite polls showing Udall's lead is as thick as January ice as reason for axing the segment, but they could have. Pearce still has three NM TV debates, but the first one is October 15th on KOB-TV and immediately follows a 90 minute presidential debate. Just what Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico always wanted--buttered Orville Redenbacker and three consecutive hours of politicians talking. Not.


Tinsley & Teague
Call it the Ambien debate for its sleep-inducing quality. Well, it really wasn't even a debate. Republican Ed Tinsley and Democrat Harry Teague sat like mannequins and droned into the public television cameras for an hour Thursday night, saying nothing that appreciably changed this apparently tight race. Despite running hard-hitting TV attack ads against one another, the two men acted like they had just met for the first time at a meeting of the local Rotary Club. The moderator also seemed afraid of the sight of blood, depriving the spectators what they had come for, and probably needed given the anguished news backdrop featuring the daily obliteration of their life savings.

Like this week's presidential debate where the candidates seemed disconnected from the crashing world economy and the very real public fear, this debate also elicited no passion. It also elicited no give and take between the two wannabe congressmen. Both were content to sail through the hour without committing any major mistakes and sitting on their respective polls which show the race to close to call, but with Teague perhaps having an edge.

Oilman Teague of Hobbs did come across folksy and more personable than Tinsley, a rancher and former head of the National Restaurant Association from Capitan. But the table the men sat at was too high, making them appear as if they had been sawed in half. Teague looked like a dwarf to Tinsley's tall man. Was this a circus act or a debate? Another weird touch was how Tinsley kept his hands under the table for almost the entire affair. How can a politician talk without using his hands? Ed taught us something new.

With a Democrat threatening to take the southern seat for the first time in nearly 30 years, it would seem that the Republican might have chosen to be more aggressive in driving home the difference for the conservative south. That didn't happen so voters are left with the impression that there really isn't much difference. Good news for the Dems.

Neither candidate carried into the debate their TV attack ads. Ed says Harry is anti-gun and Harry says Ed is anti-labor. But you would never learn that by watching them last night. Each contender did convey a sense of mature authority, but seemed shaky when discussing the details of foreign policy. The face-off was broadcast nationally on C-SPAN, as well as NM public TV.


Another day. Another crash. What's a couple of trillion dollars between friends anyway? Now, stripped of our frivolous cash, we are all free to discover true love and relate to our fellow suffering residents of this troubled planet. Finally, the true meaning of life! If you're having trouble stomaching that concept, how about a spoonful of socialism to help it go down? Truly, we are all in this together--or at least our money is as we each chip in to bail out the bankers. Does this mean we have to share the toasters we get for opening a savings account? Better make it one of those four-slice jobs.

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