Monday, January 07, 2008

Is it Land Of Entrapment For Big Bill? Odds Grow He Will Finish Term Here, Plus: Roswell Showdown; Adair Challenged, And: Third Party Run In North? 

Nothing tarnishes a political resume like defeat, even one as long and as storied as that of our own Big Bill. With Iowa rejecting his presidential candidacy and New Hampshire poised to do the same, the Alligators are saying the odds of Richardson completing his term as governor here have gone way up. They have plenty of evidence to back them up.

It's always been assumed by the national media and pundits that Richardson was not seriously seeking the Dem Prez nod, but lobbying for the veep slot or secretary of state, but in the wake of a 2% showing in Iowa, the Washington Post's David Broder summed up the current conventional wisdom regarding Bill and the veep speculation.

"Bill Richardson is hanging on, but with only a modest hope of securing second place on the ticket."

Either Clinton or Obama--the likely winners of the nomination--are seen, for obvious reasons, as the least likely to add a Hispanic Dem to the ticket. That leaves the secretary of state possibility, but as ABC's George Stephanopoulos pointed out this weekend, Richardson has hit the rocks with the Clinton camp.

But I've got to tell you, right now, the Clinton campaign and the Clintons themselves are livid at Governor Bill Richardson, because they believe he made these deals with Barack Obama in the Iowa caucuses to throw his support in the places where he wasn't viable to Barack Obama so he could stay in the race.

The Dem candidates did a weekend ABC debate in which Richardson turned in a servicable performance and praised candidates of "experience," presumably including Hillary as well as himself. But even if she warmed to him, waiting in the wings is former Sec. of State Madeline Albright, no friend of the Guv and who insiders expect would vigorously fight any move to name him the nation's top diplomat.

If Obama is elected president, he will be presenting an entirely new face and approach to American foreign policy. Would an old-hand like Richardson fit in? Again, competition would be fierce. That 2% showing doesn't give Bill much leverage.


Richardson has been near contemptuous of those who suggest he seek the US Senate seat being vacated by Pete Domenici, but the post might not look so beneath him now that he has been handed his first primary defeat and is on the cusp of his second. Rep. Tom Udall, the likely Dem US Senate nominee, was up in Iowa for the caucuses, keeping a close watch on Bill. Don't think he wasn't wondering about what a wounded Richardson could do. Is it unimaginable that the Guv would go for Senate now that Udall is so far into the run? Call it a long-shot, but so was the Guv's presidential run.

Not a few political insiders can be heard saying that Richardson's rejection of a Senate bid may stand as the biggest mistake of his political career. A Senate seat would give him the national profile he yearns for and would keep him from the national political oblivion he is headed for if he ends up empty handed in the job hunting sweepstakes. The filing deadline for the Senate seat is Feb. 12.


The Governor is being advised not to prolong the inevitable and risk looking like Harold_Stassen. He can get away with staying the Prez race until the Nevada caucus January 19, giving his candidacy a test-run in a Western state, not that the results are going to be any different there. If he stays in after that, the New Mexican public will start to turn on him, egged on by state R's who will ask why he is continuing a hopeless bid while there is a Legislative session underway.

Bill Richardson has done just about all you can do in political life, and done it well. Now he must do the one thing the political gods demand of all their subjects--learn to lose.

Sen. Adair
There are cracks in the political machine that has kept two of New Mexico's most controversial lawmakers in power. Word comes to us that Rory McMinn, a former NM Public Regulation Commissioner and two term Republican member of the Chaves County Commission, will challenge State Senator "Lightning Rod" Adair for the GOP state senate nomination in the June primary. Adair now joins his chief Chaves county ally, State House Minority Whip Dan Foley, also of Roswell, in facing significant primary opposition. Foley will square off against retired FBI agent Dennis Kintigh.

Foley and Adair have had many controversies and conflicts over the years, but their political skills have kept them in power. But Foley's arrest on disorderly conduct charges--even though the charges were dismissed--seems to have weakened the duo and attracted strong opponents. Those foes will have to be prepared to attack, as Adair and Foley specialize in hard-hitting negative politics. McMinn, 61, and an oil and gas investor, says he is ready for the game.

"Rod Adair thinks he is the czar of Chaves County and he lets any candidate who wants to run think that they have to go through him. I do not like Tammany Hall politics. I despise that type of politics. There's a public service aspect to this that seems to be missing with some of the incumbents here," McMinn told me.

Adair, first elected in '96, and Foley will have to muster all the money and political acumen they can. There is a yearning for change in the strife-torn county and the McMinn and Kintigh candidacies are its harbingers.


Remember Carol Miller? Not very fondly if you are a northern NM Democrat, but fondly if you are NM Green. The 61 year old says she is again thinking about running. She would need to collect nearly 6,000 petition signatures to launch an independent run for the northern NM congressional seat. She did that back in 1997, garnering 17% of the vote and as a result a Republican--Bill Redmond--defeated ethically challenged Democrat Eric Serna. that's the first and only time a Dem has lost the heavily D district.

The seat is now being vacated by Tom Udall who is seeking the Dem nod for US Senate. Could Miller cause the Dems to lose the seat again? Not likely. Rival Dems would like to make front-runner Ben Ray Lujan into another Eric Serna, and are looking at Serna's ties to the younger Lujan who is a member of the NM Public Regulation Commission. But Serna had decades of baggage; the young Lujan, son of the powerful House speaker, has none. But If Miller does launch a third party bid, Republican Marco Gonzales, the likely GOP nominee for the seat, may want to call Bill Redmond for a history lesson.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

OH!BAMA! Big Night For Barack But Not For Big Bill; 2% Showing Imperils Guv's Candidacy, Also: Huckabee Hailed, And: Chavez Challenges Term Limits 

For Barack Obama it is the beginning. For Bill Richardson it is the beginning of the end. He promised to shock the world in Iowa, and he did, but for all the wrong reasons. His 2% distant fourth place finish had the Alligators starting the countdown clock on when the NM Governor would pull the plug on what appears to be a fatally wounded campaign. The Guv announced he will gamely go on to New Hampshire because he finished in "The Final Four." There's no point in pulling out since that state votes on Tuesday, but veteran NM pollster Brian Sanderoff told me in a post-caucus, post-mortem not to expect much to change.

"He should do better than 2% in New Hampshire, but this Iowa showing is not going to help momentum. It is unlikely his polls (now at about 5% in the Granite State) will show any upward movement. If he is a distant fourth in New Hampshire, there is little reason to expect anything would improve after that."

The Iowa results set the stage for Bill's final act. He told supporters in Des Moines last night that from now on his campaign will be all about ending the war in Iraq, but his strong anti-war position did nothing for him in Iowa and there is no reason to believe that will change as he heads East.

"He lives to fight another day, but there's nothing but desert in front of him," declared pollster and Dem consultant Harry Pavlides. He said one consolation is that Richardson will get to appear in the big Saturday night presidential TV debate, owing to his fourth place finish. That will give him a chance to throw a Hail Mary and try to get back in this thing.

Richardson barely inched by fifth place finisher Joe Biden who registered 1% and announced his withdrawal from the race as did Senator Dodd who finished last. KRQE-TV reported from Des Moines on the Guv's mood.


The Governor's defeat was as bitter as the winter cold of Iowa; it was his first election loss in 28 years. In 1980, he was felled by NM GOP US Rep. Manuel Lujan in what was Bill's first political outing. The Governor, 60, has spent months courting the hard-to-get Iowa Democrats, but never came with a clear message they could latch onto and was passed by the superstar group of Obama, Clinton and Edwards.

The seeds of defeat were sown long ago, in a disastrous "Meet the Press" appearance that infected the national media and blogosphere and which he had difficulty turning around because of lackluster performances in the numerous TV debates. The modern form of campaigning simply did not suit Richardson's demeanor or personality. He is an in-person politician, not an on-camera one.

But the trouble was even deeper. His first wave of TV ads were clever, presenting in an entertaining way Richardson's lengthy resume, but the campaign appeared to be stuck after that, insisting on an experience theme in the face of overwhelming evidence that the Iowa Dems wanted change--major change-- from the politics of the past. In fairness, Hillary Clinton seemed to make the same mistake, faulting Obama's inexperience and seeing the argument fail like a rubber-tipped arrow fired into steel. Richardson's answer was to become the most fervent anti-war advocate this side of Dennis Kucinich, but it did little to separate him from the other candidates who were also firmly against the war, just not as adamantly as the Governor, who also had authenticity issues because of his past support of the unpopular conflict.


There's not many ways to spin a 2% showing, but the Guv's supporters did their best. They pointed out that Richardson had support of 7% of caucus-goers in the network entrance poll, but he fell to 2% in the final tally because of the complicated rules. Those rules state that a candidate must have 15% support at a precinct caucus or they get no delegates. If they do not have the 15% on the first vote, their supporters go to another candidate or go home. So it's true Richardson had more than 2% in the first half of the game, but it's the final score that counts, and he and his campaign knew that going in.

In a bizarre Election Day development, news quickly spread that Richardson had cut a deal with the Obama campaign that had Richardson's campaign urging its supporters to make Obama their second choice if Bill failed on the first vote to reach the 15% level at their precincts. Richardson flatly denied the deal in network news interviews, but sources in Iowa confirmed that campaign staff had urged them to go for Obama as second choice.

The move was apparently meant to hurt John Edwards who Richardson hoped to replace in the third place position. It played out like one of those debate gaffes that plagued the Guv the past year.


Only a miracle can turn it around now. If there is not a big bounce up in New Hampshire, there will be no money to go on to Super Duper Tuesday February 5th, which includes the NM caucus. He would like to stay in and collect some delegates to take to the national convention, including New Mexico's, but he can't risk being marginalized and treated like a freak candidate.

What seems more relevant than trying to stay in for three more weeks is who Richardson should endorse, if anyone, for the Dem nomination. Was his Iowa Election Day maneuvering with Obama a signal of things to come?

A dignified withdrawal after one last go at it in New Hampshire would seem to best serve the
Governor's interests and his supporters who are already hurting enough after last night's trouncing. He can be proud of his tenacious and untiring efforts over the past year. There is no reason to turn justifiable pride into embarrassment.


Mike Huckabee won the GOP Iowa caucus going away, slapping down Mitt Romney by nine points 34% to 25%. New Mexico R's watched intently, but the state's GOP prez primary is not until June and the race will very likely be decided by then. Veteran NM R Bruce Donisthorpe said the Huckabee victory shows "the natives are restless. There is a large cadre of Republicans unhappy with the party's current foreign and economic policies. This vote shows it."

Southern NM congressional candidate Bob Cornelius, former executive director of the Bernalillo County GOP, said not many Republicans are taking sides here. "Right now they can wait and see and avoid offending anyone." He said.


ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez told KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson Thursday he will challenge the term limits that restrict him from seeking another term in 2009, but the mayor said that doesn't mean if he gets the two term limit rule overturned in court, he will necessarily seek re-election.

"After the end of this term I may say I am going to ride off into the sunset and do something else at this point in my career, but at the same time that may not be the decision. I want to make sure everything is clear to what the options are." Chavez said.

And another politico is going to make a legal challenge. Northern Dem US House candidate Don Wiviott will go to court to challenge the requirement that a candidate get 20% of the vote at their party's March pre-primary convention in order to win a spot on the June primary ballot, and he's asking other contenders to support his move.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

OBAMA WINS IOWA CAUCUSES; Huckabee handily Wins GOP Caucus; Big Bill Pulling Only 2% In Dem Race 

It wasn't even close. Huckabee trounces Romney in the first GOP vote of '08.

Obama has taken 37%, six points ahead of Clinton and Edwards.

Richardson is getting only 2% of the delegates at stake, calling into question the viability of his campaign. He is expected to stay in for next Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, but his poor Iowa showing means staying in after that is questionable.


Reports: Richardson In Deal With Obama As Fallback In Iowa Vote 

The Richardson-Obama deal is apparently aimed at ensuring that the NM Governor can finish at least fourth in today's voting. Here's the details.

Bill Richardson has joined Dennis Kucinich in directing his supporters to vote for Barack Obama in the second round if they do not achieve the 15 percent viability threshold. Richardson may need a solid fourth-place finish in the caucuses to continue his campaign. And he is best served by directing support away from former Sen. John Edwards, who consistently polls between him and the two national front-runners, Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, in national and early state polls.

Here's the New York Times report.

Richardson's campaign will now wait and see if Edwards finishes third in Iowa. If he does, the Governor's strategists believes he will have a chance to pick up steam in New Hampshire on Tuesday. This is a long-shot strategy. Was it born of panic over possibly finishing fifth and being knocked out tonight? More as it develops.

All Eyes On Iowa; The Road Runners Report, Plus: Details On Cheney-Pearce Event 

Big Bill fans are sporting brave faces, but beneath the smiles there is major league nervousness over today's Iowa caucuses. The final RCP polling average compiled on Election Eve showed Richardson plunging to 5.0% where he maintains fourth place, but only by a half point over Delaware Senator Joe Biden whose poll average checked in at 4.5%. New Mexico has long known that the Guv's campaign was a long-shot, but has taken pride in Richardson's run as it represents the first major presidential candidacy the state has produced in its 96 year history. With Obama, Clinton and Edwards locked in a tight duel for first place in the crucial caucuses, it's no surprise that lower tier candidates like Richardson are bleeding. People want to be with a winner. But this being crazy presidential politics, even a pretty poor performance by Bill tonight might be spun to the positive side as expectations for him have been crashing. Even Richardson's New Mexico foes will probably join in hoping that Big Bill doesn't finish near the cellar. We've been at the bottom of enough lists to last at least another 96 years.

I'll update the blog tonight with Iowa results and events and have exclusive analysis for you right here on Friday. Today I've posted video of Bill's final Iowa pitch.


Don't tell those pumped up Road Runners Bill is drooping in the polls. These political junkies could care less as they scour Iowa searching for every last vote. NM Environment Secretary Ron Curry checks in with this.

Joe, Hello from Earlham, Winterset (John Wayne's birthplace and home of the "Bridges of Madison County") and Adel, Iowa. Wind chill is 12 below 0 this morning! I'm "Embedded" out here west of Des Moines with a goal of 800 door knocks and the same amount of phone calls. Two things for sure--No one will out work the Gov. and it is VERY cold.

And Sandy Buffett of Conservation Voters NM says Road Runner morale is high.

...The “Road Runners” started our day firming up our supporters and leaners with reminder calls; in the afternoon we “went deep” for the precincts where campaign staff determined viability (15% of the vote per precinct) could be a concern—it was great, each captain shouted out the exact numbers of supporters we needed to identify to exceed viability...When we hit the targets we would ring a bell and cheer. It was very Pavlovian, but motivating. It's amazing how many truly informed yet still undecided voters are here in Iowa...These caucus-goers want to know every detail on issues. I think I have laryngitis from talking nonstop.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Any Election Day having anything to do with New Mexico gets our heart pounding. I can hardly wait for the polls in Iowa to close.


Here's a group of lady Road Runners meeting up in Des Moines. Pictured from the left is Paula Maes, ABQ school board member; Connie Beimer of UNM Community Affairs; Liz Gutierrez and Lori Martinez. The photo was snapped by politico Jim Baca who is also among the 300 or so New Mexicans breathing that frigid Iowa air. I see they are wearing scarves, but did they bring the green chile stew to keep warm? Not that the weather around here has been like Palm Springs.


One guy who my GOP experts say has a better than fair chance of reaching the 20% mark at the GOP pre-primary and making the pre-primary ballot is realtor Earl Greer of T or C. Earl, 51, told me last month he would announce his congressional plans January 2. His word was good as he announced Wednesday he will indeed be a candidate.

Greer made an unsuccessful bid for state Republican chairman earlier this year, losing to incumbent Allen Weh, but he garnered a respectable number of votes and his contacts in the party make his path to getting the 20% easier than the other contenders. Candidates Ed Tinsley and Aubrey Dunn, Jr. are ready to spend money, but they need to muster the 20% at the convention, and money won't replace personal relationships. They will have to build those as Greer has. Earl, chair of the Sierra County GOP, says he is the son of pioneer Sierra County ranchers, whose Hispanic lineage can be traced back to the 1500s. With Joe Cervantes quitting the race for the Democrats, Greer is the only Southern NM US House candidate--D or R--who has a Hispanic background.


As promised, VP Dick Cheney will hold a fund-raiser for GOP US Senate candidate Steve Pearce, following his appearance on behalf of Pearce rival, US Rep. Heather Wilson. Cheney raised about $110,000 for Heather and Steve is also going for some big bucks with his Cheney event. The D.C. Alligators have sent the invitation over for you.

You are cordially invited to a reception in honor of Congressman Steve Pearce, Republican Candidate for Senate (NM) With special guest Vice President Dick Cheney

Wednesday, January 23, 2008
730 15th Street, NW- 10th Floor
5:30 - 7:30 p.m.

Host: $5,000 per PAC/ $2K per Person- photo-op & reception
Sponsor: $2,000 per PAC/ $1K per Person- Photo-op & reception
Attend: $1,000 per PAC/ $250 per Person- reception


Jon Adams, seeking the Dem nod for the Northern US House seat, says he is getting a head start by already collecting the 959 petition signatures of registered Dems necessary to qualify as a candidate. Adams and the other contenders will gather twice as many signatures as necessary to avoid having the petitions challenged by their opponents. Filing day for the three congressional seats and the US Senate seat is February 12th. Do you think any of the candidates will be unable to get enough signatures, shrinking the field that day? Maybe so...

Dateline Des Moines: Terrell is there for the New Mexican. Jones is there for the Journal. Jojola is there for KOB-TV.

Home of the exclusives. Home of New Mexico politics. E-mail your news and comments and keep us in the loop.

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CNN: Huckabee handily Wins GOP Iowa Caucus; Big Bill Pulling Only 2% 

It wasn't even close. Huckabee trounces Romney in the first GOP vote of '08.

With 37% of the precincts reporting, Richardson is pulling only 2%. Edwards, Obama and Clinton are still bunched at the top.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Dateline Des Moines: What Bill Needs: Tie At The Top Would Help; Our Preview Of His Chances, Plus: Trib Still Breathes, And: Sizing Up Santa Fe Crime 

Road Runners in Iowa
Rooted on by three hundred New Mexico "Road Runners," Big Bill embarked New Year's day on a two day 13 stop barnstorming tour of the Hawkeye State, hoping against hope that the polls are more witchcraft than science and that he can muster enough strength to push his quixotic presidential bid East to New Hampshire.

The toll the campaign has taken on the New Mexico Governor was evident in TV appearances in which he looked all his 60 years and maybe a few more. In these final hours he will rely on inner passion, adrenaline and strong coffee to carry him across the finish line. If it all ends on the snowy plains of Iowa Thursday night, years from now Richardson may have regrets, but not working hard is not going to be one of them.

The Governor, scrappy until the end, maintained to CNN Tuesday that he is "going to shock the world" with his early primary showings. Hey, as the Prez says, "Bring it on!"

For caucus day, the only event on his schedule circulated Tuesday night was an evening party at a Des Moines Quality Inn, but keeping the gregarious Guv off the campaign trail with even just one hour to go before the voting is as likely as folks keeping their New Year's resolutions past January 5th.


Can it all end for him tomorrow night? It could if he unexpectedly finished in fifth place. Delaware Senator Joe Biden occupies that slot now, but has been gaining on Richardson. Bill's latest RCP polling average is 6.0%; Biden's is 5%, But Richardson has a better organization than Biden so a fifth place disaster should be avoided. If it isn't, it would be humiliating, would probably mean the end of his campaign before Super Tuesday on February 5 and encourage his opponents at the upcoming legislative session.

Fourth is where for months every poll has had the Governor. He has been unable to crack into the promised land of the top three where he has said he needs to finish, although he has downplayed that in recent days. Fourth place would shred any remaining Pollyannaish hope that Richardson could actually win the Democratic nomination, but at least a fourth place finish is important because it will be the top four finishers in Iowa and those polling at 5% who are invited to the nationally televised Saturday New Hampshire debate whose primary is next Tuesday. That debate would give the Guv one more chance to get in the race.

Top political pros and insiders checking in here say the best Iowa outcome for the Governor--excluding a third place shocker--would be a three way near-tie at the top between Obama, Edwards and Clinton. The theory being that if no frontrunner emerges it keeps second-tier candidates like Richardson in play as the media bills the post-Iowa race as wide open. If Senator Obama takes the Iowa prize decisively, independent voters in New Hampshire are expected to rush to his side, a group of voters that Richardson appeals to and with whom he needs to make a showing. A Clinton or Edwards win is more favorable to the Guv as we head to New Hampshire because their appeal to independents is not seen as strong as Obama's. In New Hampshire, independents can vote in either the Republican or Democratic presidential primaries.

What if the extraordinary happened and Bill came in third in Iowa? Well, is there a bandwagon big enough to carry all the new Road Runners who would want to hop on it? And is there any blogger discounts for those flights to New Hampshire?


Pictured at the top are some intrepid "Road Runners" at Bill's Des Moines headquarters. They are Santa Fe attorney and former Big Bill legal counsel, Geno Zamora, Bryon Paez, lobbyist and former director of cabinet affairs for the Governor and Ramona Martinez, a former constituent services representative for Bill. Zamora ran and lost a bid for the Dem nod for NM attorney general in '06. Paez briefly sought the Dem nomination for the ABQ congressional seat this year. Maybe they will pick up some tricks in Iowa that they can use in a future NM campaign, but if they start talking about how great ethanol is, we'll know they've gone too far.


Big Bill campaign manager Dave Contarino, working it hard in the climatic hours of the Iowa campaign, has issued this memo touting the Guv's "momentum." The longtime Richardson confidant aims to keep on board Richardson supporters who may be discouraged by the recent polls.

INTO 2008

The struggling ABQ Tribune managed to make it into the new year of 2008, but the executioners axe still hangs over the 85 year old afternoon daily which announced in August that it would close if no buyer was found. Ever since, we've been following this story that could make ABQ a one newspaper town. Here's the latest from one of our top media Alligators:

...Buyout agreements were being distributed at The Tribune Monday (Dec.31). The 33-35 staffers still on board was likely to shrink to below 20, and the remaining employees, hoping against hope that a buyer will come to the rescue, will stay on at 1 1/2 times pay to keep the paper going until a deal with (PR firm) D.W. Turner either consummates or craters. Diehards expected to go down with the ship are likely to number about 15 or so.

Will the Trib, circulation 9,900, be bought and survive in its present form? Stay tuned.


We blogged of the Santa Fe crime wave in 2007 and after a calm period, it seems to be back with us for the new year. I notice Benjie Moñtano is Santa Fe deputy police chief. I recall covering him when he was Santa Fe County Sheriff in the early 80's. He knows the area well and surely does not want to retire seeing crime spiraling. Our readers have given us a variety of reasons for the spike in capital city crime, including an influx of undocumented workers and drug dealers. Can Moñtano, the police chief and Mayor Coss give City Different citizens a safe new year? New Mexico is waiting...and watching.


It's a special trip to Iowa for Jim Baca, former NM Land Commissioner and current acting state Natural Resources Trustee. He tells me his mother is buried in Iowa and he has never visited her grave. He says that should change before he leaves the state Friday after campaigning for his boss...There's yet another candidate for the Dem nod for the Northern congressional seat. He is political newcomer Rudy Martin, who has an axe to grind with Dem frontrunner Ben Ray Lujan. And grind away, he does.

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