<$BlogRSDUrl$>

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Gates Start To Close On Campaign '08; Early Voting Starts Today, Plus: Heinrich Leads White In Independent Poll, And: Mac's ABQ Visit 

Thousands upon thousands of New Mexican voters could care less about the upcoming TV candidate debates, the last minute TV commercials and the flyers flooding into their mailboxes. They are among those closing the gates on Campaign '08 by voting early. Today, the first day of early voting, will attract several thousand of them. It's a process that will continue until the end of the month and, my experts say, account for as many as 60% of all the votes cast in the November 4th election. If we have a turnout of about 800,000 that would mean an early vote of 520,000. Each year the percentage of the electorate choosing to forego traditional Election Day voting grows forcing campaigns to adapt.

Voters love early voting because they can make their decision and tune-out the inevitable barrage of negative campaigning that defines the modern election cycle. Some of the media is starting to adjust by having their TV debates earlier and newspapers are starting to come with editorial endorsements in time to catch the early voters. Monday the Santa Fe New Mexican came with one of its earliest ever endorsements as they gave the nod to Dem US Senate candidate Tom Udall. While early voting is a great convenience, those who decide to play traditionalist and cast their ballot at the local school on Election Day may be rewarded for their patience with smaller lines and a chance to chat up their neighbors.

WHITE LAGS HEINRICH

New Mexico Republicans were jolted anew Monday when the ABQ Journal released its poll of the ABQ congressional district. For the first time this early in the cycle the Democratic nominee is leading the R. Dem Martin Heinrich leads Republican Darren White 43 to 41 with 16 percent undecided.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. The R's said they had delivered a golden boy in a Dem year that would keep the seat safely in GOP hands, continuing a 40 year trend. But polling prior to the Journal's showed that thesis in doubt--Heinrich's own late September poll had him leading by three-- and this poll confirms that underdog Heinrich is very close to being called the favorite. Not that the race is settled--far from it--but Heinrich may be positioned for a somewhat rare feat in ABQ congressional politics--benefiting significantly from the coattails of the presidential candidate. The Journal and pollster Brian Sanderoff say Obama is winning the metro area by 51%. McCain comes in at 34%. White is already outrunning McCain by a big margin. There's only so far he can run with that, while Heinrich has more room to grow in the direction of Obama.

The fly in the proverbial ointment for Heinrich is those conservative Reagan Democrats. The poll says he is earning 65% Dem support. Many D's don't know the former one term city councilor and there are others who are skeptical because of his liberal background. On the other hand, Heinrich has opened up a lead among the crucial independents (47 to 31 and 22 undecided) who normally go to the GOP. That is very good news indeed for Heinrich, who can now afford some bleeding among those conservative D's if he continues his head of steam with the indys.

Fifty-one percent of Hispanics polled favored Heinrich while White was favored by 32 percent, with 17 percent undecided or who wouldn't say. That's not too bad for Darren at this stage. Heinrich needs to work the South Valley harder and bring these voters home.

How can such a highly touted candidate like White be in such deep trouble? The national Dem trend is, of course, the primary reason. Heinrich remains a relatively unknown quantity. Many voters are voting against the Republican---never mind who the Dem foe is. No wonder the Alligators report that White was nowhere to be seen at McCain's ABQ visit Monday.

EVEN MORE ANALYSIS


Beyond the terrible environment for R's, White's campaign failed to campaign over the summer. They did nothing to define Heinrich or renew White's relationship with the electorate. Because he did not have sufficient funds, White came late to TV. The sheriff has shown himself to be knowledgeable about law enforcement, but not the other issues--particularly the economy--that a US congressman must deal with. He has also labored to present himself as "an independent voice" but has done little of note to demonstrate that independence. He has not rebutted Democratic charges that he is really a child of Bush, whose Bernalillo County campaign White co-chaired in 2004. Long ago, White broke with his Governor and quit his job. Now, he may face a similar decision in his relationship with the President.

The sheriff and his handlers did not seem prepared for this level of political combat, believing his long record in law enforcement would be accepted and rewarded by the voters. But that record was never presented and it turns out that many voters had only a shallow relationship with the sheriff. His record is now being presented to the voters by the Democrats in highly negative campaign ads. White has responded with one of his own, but the campaign is being fought on the wrong ground for the R's. The issue should not be whether White is a good sheriff but the competence and abilities of the Democratic candidate--the traditional route to victory for the R's in the ABQ district.

Heinrich doesn't have a lot to gloat about. As we said, he is the beneficiary of the national trend. His campaign has overspent, had various personnel issues, hid the candidate at times and been generally lackluster. Having said that, Heinrich has proven himself resilient by not making any public mistakes and being a relatively adept fund-raiser. This candidate has taken some hits that border on the personal, but has kept his cool. His restraint has served him well and perhaps given voters a sense that this is not the hapless, weak-kneed caricature that his foes were hoping would by now be his defined image.

There will be several TV debates between Heinrich and White and a mistake by either candidate could shake the race. The contest remains a toss-up but Heinrich has a tailwind and White has a headwind. But leading on coattails has dangers. If Obama should fall on his sword, Heinrich bleeds. Still, for a Democrat to be ahead in the ABQ congressional race on the day early voting begins is a first-time accomplishment. For a moment at least, it blacks out 40 years of unpleasant memories.

HARRY AND ED

Sorry, no ABQ Journal poll for the big race in the southern congressional district featuring Dem Harry Teague and R Ed Tinsley. Seems the recession is taking its toll. Teague did have some news Monday. His campaign said:

(We) raised approximately $1,096,000 in the third quarter, which runs from July 1st through September 30th. Teague loaned $500,000 to his campaign during the quarter, bringing his total personal contributions to approximately $1,265,000...Sixty-four percent of total individual donations came from within the 2nd Congressional District.

The national D's and oil wealthy Harry are outspending Tinsley on TV. Ed's been hammering Harry on gun ownership and now he's come with the endorsement of the NRA.

FATHERS OF SUCCESS

We received a new copy of that invitation for the ABQ debate watch party tonight of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on behalf of Martin Heinrich. This one, unlike the first one we posted, prominently lists Governor Richardson and Senator Bingaman as hosts for the fund-raiser. Heinrich is doing well for now, so you can't be surprised that success has many fathers. (Click on image to enlarge.)

MAC'S RETURN

McCain rolled into ABQ for a quick visit Monday that won him the usual intensive nightly news coverage the campaign yearns for, as well as the live coverage of the three cable news channels.Beyond that, there was not much of a local nature that voters here would grab onto. Senator Domenici introduced him at the early afternoon rally at the Student Union Building at the University of New Mexico, a location in the heart of Obama country and which drew youthful protesters the TV cameras gravitated to. Video of McCain's speech here.

As we said earlier, our eyes on the scene say ABQ congressional hopeful Darren White did not attend the McCain event, apparently taking to heart that it is the Republican brand that is a prime reason he lags Dem Heinrich. Reps. Wilson and Pearce did attend, but neither made comments.

McCain will likely return as he trails Obama here by five points, but still has an outside chance for the upset. A stop in southern NM to beef up the conservative base may be in order. Or how about a solo visit from VP contender Palin? That would get those GOP hearts throbbing.

E-mail your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Monday, October 06, 2008

NM Back In Spotlight: McCain Today; Pelosi Tuesday; Prez Race Analyzed From All Angles, Plus: Kari & Lisa Clash Anew, And: D Triple Play For Congress? 

McCain & Speaker Pelosi Back To ABQ
Just when you thought they had forgotten us, they're back. Today John McCain is in ABQ; tomorrow US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in the Duke City as New Mexico resumes its role as presidential battleground, even as polling shows Obama with a healthy lead, but not necessarily an insurmountable one. But does John McCain gain on Obama by going to the heart of Obama country--the University of New Mexico--for an afternoon rally today? The Alligators--who broke the news here that McCain would be in NM sometime this week--pointed out that the UNM area is locked, loaded and ready to fire for Obama. Isn't a 1:15 p.m. stop at the Student Union Ballroom akin to General Custer riding into the Little Bighorn? Why not put McCain on ABQ’s West Side or near NE Heights where his chances of persuading voters still on the bench are much better? Perhaps because he has to get out of here quick and needs to be close to the airport? If logistics are outweighing voter appeal, the campaign needs to take a deep breath.

Today's visit is one of those "by invitation" events, which means protesters and would-be hecklers will have a hard time getting into the SUB to heckle McCain, but if McCain was going to pick a spot where a Republican would find plenty of foes, it is a university campus. Dems have announced a campus news conference and voter registration rally to coincide with the visit. Tuesday is the last day to register to vote in the November 4 election. (Tickets to McCain available starting at 8 a.m. only at: McCain Headquarters 5643 Jefferson Street NE Suite B & C, ABQ.)

THE DOOMSDAY SCENARIO


McCain's NM campaign could be reacting to the doomsday scenario---he loses Bernalillo County by over 15,000 votes, Obama performs well in the Spanish North and there is nowhere left for McCain to make up the difference. Going to UNM could be aimed at dampening down the Tsunami forming in that area which could produce the fatal votes against McCain, but you can't stop a bursting dam with a twig, and going to UNM provides the Dems and Obama camp the easy opportunity to organize protests and make the media. But McCain bills himself as "The Maverick" and by stopping in the heart of the enemy he is certainly living up to his self-described billing.

McCain comes here on the heels of the first ABQ Journal NM Prez survey showing him trailing Obama 45 percent to 40 percent with 14 percent undecided and 1 percent going to minor candidates. The good news for McCain is that he is not further behind given the dismal economic news and the state's Dem registration advantage. The bad news is he is still poised to lose the state unless there is a game-changing event. Given the course of the campaign, the odds of such a happening may not be too far fetched.

INSIDE DOOMSDAY

Still, the dagger hanging over McCain here is the Bernalillo County math. Obama's organizational presence here is huge, and there are signs that the most dangerous saying in politics and stock market bubbles--"This time it's different"--could actually be true. The difference in 2008 being an upswing in youthful voters enamored with Obama, boosting his inner city vote in ABQ to the point that McCain is a goner.

The Arizona Senator is currently losing the metro area--defined by the Journal and pollster Brian Sanderoff as Bernalillo, Sandoval and Valencia counties--by a margin of 51-34. The number sounds about right for Obama, but perhaps a tad low for McCain. The margin of error in the survey is 3.8%. Again, we see this race crystallizing around the crucial question of Bernalillo County. Kerry thought his nearly 11,000 Bernalillo vote win over Bush in 2004 was enough to protect him from the southern rural onslaught, the conservative suburbs and a so-so northern showing. It wasn't. He lost the state by 5,998. Polls say McCain can't quite match Bush's 2004 superior performance outside of ABQ, so if Obama takes the state's largest county by around 15,000 or more (out of about 280,000 cast), it is game set and tennis matches on the White House lawn for Obama.

SPANISH NORTH ANALYSIS

The Hispanic numbers in the Journal poll were gratifying for the Dems, if not yet conclusive. Obama was ahead 62 to 17 with 21% undecided. McCain may get most, but not all of those still unsure. But Obama will get his share and that would mean he would improve upon Kerry's 62% Hispanic showing here. More important is the turnout among Hispanics. Obama would win the battle but lose the war if Hispanics give him 68%, but Hispanic turnout remains as low as for Kerry. Which raises a question--perhaps for the northern press and the campaigns to look into--What are the Catholic churches in the north saying about Obama and his stands on abortion and gay marriage? Obama hopes, that unlike four years ago, they aren't saying much of anything.

Obama's Espanola visit two weeks ago was a deft step. He may travel north one more time in the final month, but the first order of business will likely be ABQ and boosting that turnout that would shut the door with finality on McCain. Second, is keeping the Hispanic north moving slowing but surely his way, and third is Dona Ana County where a quick visit close to Election Day should be enough to seal the deal.

SOUTH TO THE BORDER

McCain still needs to head south and boost enthusiasm and turnout in the southern congressional district where out-performance for an R Prez candidate is mandatory. Sanderoff separated out "Little Texas" in his polling this year. The Journal did not list the counties, but we have them as including Chaves, Eddy, Lea and Roosevelt. McCain is leading that mainly conservative area 64 to 23. The rest of the southern district, including Dona Ana, has McCain ahead 50 to 30. McCain is leading, but like Bush, he will need to blow the southern doors off if Obama surges in big Bernalillo.

ON THE FENCE


The percentage of undecided in the Journal poll--14 percent--is much higher than other surveys, and that's to be expected, but still raises questions about turnout and the effect of race on the contest.

Most of the Prez polling has been conducted by automatic telephone surveys which push for an answer. The Journal poll interviews likely voters over the phone, getting a clear read on the undecided. But 14 per cent is quite a bit with early voting starting this week. There's a lot of Democratic Anglo voters among them. Will some of them not vote in the Prez race? How many will vote for McCain? The ratings for the first TV debate between Obama and McCain were lower than expected, another reason some think that voter turnout might not be quite as high as anticipated. It is something we simply can't know for sure until Election Night.

SENATE SURVEY SAYS...

Not much to analyze. The ABQ Journal poll on the NM US Senate race between Dem Tom Udall and Republican Steve Pearce confirms Udall's lead. It's Tom 51 percent to Steve's 36 percent. Undecided is 13 percent. Pearce is in the unenviable position of having to win over just about all the undecided vote. Udall carries his home north by a stunning 75 percent. Not much to add to that. We'll keep you posted.

CONGRESSIONAL GRAND SLAM?

Recent polling suggests the once unthinkable--an all Democratic NM D.C. delegation. The Journal will soon come with congressional district polling, expected to hold good news for ABQ congressional hopeful Martin Heinrich as well as southern Dem contender Harry Teague. KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson and I took a look at the possibility of all five members of the delegation going D. We had an all R NM delegation for a brief time in the early 80's. The Dems haven't held all of the state's federal seats at once since '68.

NANCY'S SMILING FACE

We're pretty sure US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi looks forward to being here tomorrow to watch the next presidential debate and fete Martin Heinrich at a fund-raising reception at the home of ABQ developer Gary Goodman. Mother hen Nancy would love to have three NM chicks to show around the Capitol and, of course, have them vote to keep her as Speaker. (Click on image of invite to enlarge.)

We thought we saw Northern Dem hopeful Ben Ray Lujan, the surest Dem winner of the NM bunch, thoughtfully mentioned in one of the e-mails going around about Nancy's visit. The House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, recently held a big fund-raiser for Ben Ray in Martin's home district, creating the impression that perhaps Ben Ray was getting a bit of special treatment from the House powers-that-be. If so, it will be more than made up up to Heinrich with plenty of nurturing from Nancy, Light Guv Diane Denish and other "Women Leaders" who are hosting what is billed as an "elegant reception."

Southern hopeful Harry Teague need not come around to pay his respects to Nancy and Company, although he could. The less the conservatives in the south are reminded that Harry and liberal Nancy would set up house together in D.C. the better.

KARI VS. LISA

The race for Bernalillo County District Attorney featuring two astute players is heating up and bursting into the headlines. Thursday Republican Lisa Torraco got the front-page splash she wanted as she hammered Democratic incumbent Kari Brandenburg over the DA's conviction rate. Friday Kari suffered another hit as her handling of a notorious double murder was called into question. Torraco took advantage and scored some TV time in addition to badly needed ink. She has also continued to hammer away with paid radio which you can listen to here.

We haven't seen any paid media from Kari yet; she has more financial resources than Lisa who last reported raising in the area of $50,000. Kari can be expected to come with TV ads and in your mailboxes soon. Torraco may or may not have enough for a TV buy that makes a difference.

Brandenburg is going for her third term after being unopposed for her second one four years ago. That is a long stint and the baggage can pile up. She has benefited from a friendly press and this year a seemingly big Dem trend in Bernalillo County. The race, on the front lines of crime fighting in a community riddled with crime, deserves high-profile play, but it is competing with many other high-profile races, putting more pressure on Torraco to get her message out against a well-known incumbent who only now is being asked to defend herself.

THE BOTTOM LINES


CQ Politics is one of the more conservative Prez ratings services. They've just switched NM to "lean Obama" from "no clear favorite."...Reader Ellen Wedum continues our coverage of the Wall Street bailout with this comment: "The second bill the Congress passed just adds more pork. I am disappointed in both Senators Domenici and Bingaman. It does NOT provide for any accountability, and it does NOT provide a way to pay for the $700 billion. A return to the corporate tax levels of the 1950's is needed to pay for this, not more national debt."

The ABQ Journal called NM's Senators "statesmen" for voting for the bailout. Were those the "statesmen" who loaded up the bailout bill with $150 billion in even more spending? The Journal faces off with the New Mexican on this one...

Thanks, Ellen. News? Comment?
E-mail it in.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Friday, October 03, 2008

Sarah And Joe: How Did They Do? NM Analysts Weigh In, Plus: Wild About Harry; Teague Enjoying A Good Run, But Tinsley Lurks 

If Sarah Palin further excited the conservative base of the GOP because of Thursday night's debate with Joe Biden, that would be good news for the R's in southern NM who fear an upset in their congressional race. (see below) They need more enthusiasm on the ground for McCain. But overall, New Mexico analysts interviewed felt Palin may have done more to shed her airhead image than anything else.

"This was not a game-changing debate, but she did stop the bleeding the Republican ticket was suffering. In three or four days, this will not be a well-remembered event, but she did help herself, if not necessarily the standing of McCain," analyzed veteran Dem Mike Santullo as we made the cell phone rounds into the late night hours. He added that Palin did not help herself when she strayed and did not address the questions she was asked.

"She reinvigorated the campaign because she performed above expectations, but now it's up to McCain to close the sale," said longtime Republican Eric Lucero, a GOP Ward chairman in Bernalillo County.

Veteran Dem analyst Harry Pavlides agreed that Palin stopped the bleeding for the R's and made inroads with conservative voters who are still undecided, but not more. "Biden won the war, but she won the battle she needed to win--which was to stop the questions about her intelligence and experience."

But did Palin do more than help consolidate votes that should naturally be with the R's? There was no clear evidence that she had if post-debate polls and focus groups run by the networks were to be believed.

Respected conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote this missive prior to the debate, but it is worth noting that he believes Obama is about to take the White House. In NM, Rasmussen's latest numbers say it is Obama 49 to McCain's 44. SurveyUSA gives it to Obama 52 to 44.

WILD ABOUT HARRY?

Southern Dem congressional contender Harry Teague is starting to get some good national press over his chances of becoming the first Dem to take the southern House seat since Harold Runnels won in 1980. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report now puts the race for the seat in the "toss-up" category switching it from the "lean Republican" column. Teague's campaign came with a poll showing him leading Tinsley 46 to 41, but the poll was taken back on September 2nd. How about some fresh numbers? Well, we will get some soon enough from the ABQ Journal survey.

Roll Call reports rancher Tinsley, former head of the National Restaurant Association has spent $500,000 of his own cash on the general election. Campaign fund-raising is said to be lackluster.

Teague from Hobbs is a wealthy oil man, but he appears to be raising good money from outside of hs own wallet. That the race is now ranked a toss-up outside of the state--we've had it in that category for a couple of months--could mean late money coming in to both camps.

Geography is shaping the race. Dems have found a candidate from Lea County which Republicans normally carry by huge numbers. If Teague eats into Tinsley's lead there and scores a healthy win in Dona Ana County--the district's most populous--it will be hard for Ed to make up the numbers elsewhere in the sprawling district. But this is a very conservative district. If the R's have any chance of bringing home their own and conservative Dems, it is here.

Harry needs to work furiously to the end and take advantage of every puff of that Democratic wind he has at his back. Ed may have to write a bigger check.

MORE ON McCAIN

As we blogged Thursday, we don't have an exact date for the next McCain visit, but our report that he will be here sometime around October 10th was based on a direct quote from McCain who conducted a phone call with several NM political candidates recently.

"He said he would be here in the second week of October, and that he wanted us to greet his plane when it lands," said one of those with knowledge of the call.

The chair of the McCain campaign in Chaves County, Beth Ryan, says she has been told McCain is slated to be in Minnesota and Wisconsin on the 10th. Presidential candidate campaign schedules this close to the election can change on a dime, but we wanted to let you know our report came directly from the candidate. We'll keep you posted.

THAT LOW?

Can the approval rating of Congress really be as low as 10 percent as we mentioned Thursday? It can. In fact, a Rasmussen poll in July put it at nine percent.

THE BOTTOM LINES

We end the week on an appropriate note: With a pro-bailout rage from reader Linda Rose

It is not only the CEO's that are greedy it is ALL of us!! The blame should be put on everyone shoulders of America, it is you and me that voted these so called politicians in office and it is you and me that tries to buy a house that we can't afford. It is you and me that use up all the gas just for nonsensical trips that needs to be done away with. Every citizen of the United States of America needs to wake up and clean their own house.

Thanks, Linda. But many of us aren't buying homes we can't afford or wasting gasoline; it was Wall Street that ran amok, abetted by a head-in-the-sand Congress and White House.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon. E-mail your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bailout Causes A Case Of Uncertain Congress Candidates, Plus: McCain Sets Next NM Visit, And: Fresh Senate Polling & Readers React To Big Economy News 

Everything about the lackluster campaigns for the ABQ and southern congressional seats is summed up in the way the candidates handled their responses to the $700 billion bailout bill. When the campaigns of Ed Tinsley and Darren White were first asked where they stood on the bailout, Tinsley's campaign gave a non-answer and White's campaign delayed commenting. That led us to reasonably conclude (and blog) that the two candidates were apparently for the bailout. But after putting their fingers to the wind, White and Tinsley told the ABQ Journal they would have voted against the bailout. And Democrat Martin Heinrich doesn't get off the hook. Even now, the paper reports, Martin isn't saying how he would have voted on legislation of a lifetime! (Southern Dem Harry Teague says he would have voted against the bailout.)

The tentativeness and uncertainty of the state's congressional candidates when dealing with spontaneous news stories has been the most revealing aspect of Campaign '08, not the ubiquitous and manipulative 30 second campaign commercials. These are the most heavily handled candidates we've seen in years. Because these hopefuls have such limited political experience, everyone is trying to avoid making the big mistake, while the voters try to figure out which of them can lead. That's why we need free wheeling TV debates, so we can determine the true characters of these novice political characters.

PETE & JEFF

Even some of those with lengthy political experience seemed out of touch with the public rage and anger at the government. NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici drew the wrath of CNN's Lou Dobbs, among many others, for attaching a mental health parity bill to the historic financial bailout legislation the Senate approved Wednesday night. This, after Domenici warned of dire consequences if a bailout bill is not approved. Guess things aren't so dire after all if there's room for Pete's pet project during a national crisis. Now the House must debate that issue along with the critical economic measures. Pete did get a nod for this work--not from the conservatives, but from the liberal editorial pages of the New York Times. That's how upside down the politics of the bailout has become.

Even NM Dem Senator Bingaman, who voted for the bailout last night and is as thoughtful as they get, could not resist loading up the bailout bill with his pet cause--"clean energy" tax incentives. How that is related to the matter at hand loses the public, but that's the way the Congress does business. Its current approval rating is around 10 percent. The bill now goes to the House for a Friday vote. Senate hopefuls Udall and Pearce voted against the first bailout bill. They say they are undecided on this one.

OVER THE TOP?

Is Darren White's new TV ad using the father and mother of slain sheriff's deputy James McGrane over the top? KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson and I tackled that question. Here's the report.

Some observers were critical not just of White, but of McGrane's parents for lending themselves and their son's memory to a political campaign. The ad featuring the McGrane's is White's response to an attack ad Dem Martin Heinrich has run against the sheriff questioning his law enforcement credentials, but never mentions Deputy McGrane or the incident that took his life. The emotions of aggrieved parents can be understood, but when they come on the public stage their motives and statements are going to come under scrutiny. Such are the hot flames of La Politica in an election year October.

NO CHANGE


The calendar may have changed to a new month, but not the chances of Republican Steve Pearce to become the next NM US Senator. The latest SurveyUSA poll released Wednesday shows a huge lead for Dem Tom Udall. It's Udall 58 percent to Pearce's 39 and three percent undecided. That may exaggerate Udall's lead some, but clearly the economic crisis is benefiting the Democrats nationwide. Without that as a backdrop, Udall would likely be lower. But that's the reality Pearce has to deal with--somehow.

HE'S BACK

Maybe John McCain can lift the spirits of New Mexico R's. He'll be back here on or around October 10 for a visit that could take him around the state, report our reliable insiders. Will Pearce do what Bush did in October 2004 and do a swing through rural NM? Experts say McCain needs to close the gap with Obama here by bringing home votes in conservative southern NM. He is still not performing up to par in that region. That could help McCain with his statewide standing and also give a lift to GOP Southern congressional hopeful Ed Tinsley who is in danger of losing the US House seat to Dem Harry Teague.

Speaking of Teague, he's been stung by that TV spot from GOP rival Ed Tinsley that accuses him of being anti-gun. He came with this response. The tag line not so subtly hints at Tinsley's part-time Santa Fe residence. "Ed Tinsley. Not for us. Not one of us."

In Tinsley's attack ad, he cites a quote from the ABQ Journal that says Teague described himself as "not a gun fan" and that "it would be fine with me to turn my guns in.." to the government. As with the White ad in which the candidate does not address the specific charges, Teague's response also ignores the specifics, issuing a blanket denial and then going on to level new charges against Tinsley. Teague has said he owns several guns.

WEAKS ON THE WEAK ECONOMY

If we are going to have a slowdown in our state, NM lobbyist Dan Weaks thinks there's something we could do about it--right now.

Wouldn’t it be a good idea to fast track the $1 billion plus in public projects that are grinding through the government capital outlay process? Let's cut the red tape and set up a task force to get the stalled projects going...Streamline the approvals and put our money to work creating jobs instead of leaving huge amounts in low earning investments. And, if the state is having concerns selling bonds needed for the construction, why not offer a sale to New Mexicans and New Mexico institutions with reasonable rates of return? Use local institutions instead of the national jolly green incompetent giants. We may not have a recession; we may just have constipation...


And they are not "make work" jobs Weaks is talking about. The projects--community improvements statewide--have been authorized and budgeted, but we have dragged our feet and the money, as Weaks points out, is just sitting there. Sounds like an opportunity for all three major players--The Legislature, Big Bill and possible future Guv Lady Di. Will one of them grab it?

BAIL EM' OUT!

Reader Norman Shatkin blogs in from Lake Katrine, NY to chastise us for not supporting the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, and praising Rep. Steve Pearce and Udall for their votes against the measure:

What Pearce is doing is staking out an "anti-government" position because most people don't understand the issue and are appalled at the idea of the government bailing out Wall Street. It IS appalling, but the things we've witnessed in the past few months are unprecedented...People who understand the issues say that doing nothing is not an option. The world runs on credit, and credit really has seized up. (Treasury Secretary) Paulson's proposal, as modified by Congress, may or may not solve the problem, but Pearce's is not any better, and pretending that the situation isn't all that bad isn't going to change the fact...

Let's clarify, Norman. Some credit, not all, has seized up. See our blog on NM's independent banks that we ran Wednesday. We agree something needs to be done, but we applaud Pearce and Udall for voting down the initial plan. That gives us a chance to get something better and better thought out. In other words, fear-mongering, threats and panic is not the answer.

BANK ON IT, OR NOT?

Reader John Gniady, reacting to our blog yesterday noting the decline in the stock of regional bank First State Bancorp, says we may have been too optimistic when we said there did not appear to be "cracks in the finances" of the regional bank. He notes the stock fell hard again Wednesday and bears watching. Hard to argue with that in this charged atmosphere. We will note that deposits of up to $100,000 in First State, as in most banks, are insured by the FDIC.

THE BOTTOM LINES

She's in. KOAT-TV and the ABQ Journal have relented and invited independent 
northern congressional hopeful Carol Miller to their Oct. 19 6 p.m. debate. KOAT initially excluded Miller, but she says her supporters convinced the station to reverse the decision. We were among those who urged the station to have not only Democrat Ben Ray Lujan and Republican Dan East on the televised forum, but also Miller. She collected 11,000 signatures to make the ballot. KOAT did the right thing. Now how about some debates in prime time?

The AP's Heather Clark is worried that the economic crisis is keeping Tom Udall and Steve Pearce away from the campaign trail on a full-time basis. Now, if only the voters felt that way....

This is the home of New Mexico politics. E-mail your news comments. Reporting from Albuquerque, NM, I'm Joe Monahan.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Credit Crisis? Not Around Here, But Economy Looms Over Jobs, Plus: A Bunch Of Fun Campaign Action From Your First of October Blog 

After listening to hyperbolic TV talking heads Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico could hardly be faulted if they thought of heading to the craps tables at Sandia to try to cover their stock losses and finding additional succor by loudly playing "Can't Buy me Love" on their iPods. But the reality of the situation, according to a top NM finance man, is hardly that stark.

"If there's one message I would like to get out to New Mexicans is that we have money to lend; we are open for business and want to do business," declared Jerry Walker a former legislator and now the President and CEO of the Independent Community Bankers Association of New Mexico.

"We don't have rotten paper on our balance sheets. And the energy industry is doing well. But small banks have been tarred along with the ones that are really in trouble," explained Walker who calls Farmington home.

There has been some downside action in the stock of First State Bancorp because of Fannie Mae stock it owned and had to write down, but no signs of any cracks in the finances of that or other local banks. Knock on wood.

Walker's palliative is a welcome fear antidote. But if there is a major economic slowdown even small banks could take a hit if their real estate and other loans get into trouble. But for now, Walker insists, the spigot is turned on in New Mexico. If you have decent credit you can get a loan for whatever constitutes your personal American Dream.

SHRINKING CITY HALL?
Chavez
Getting a loan in NM may not be the big problem in this economic environment but keeping your job could be. At ABQ's City Hall, where they are counting on growth of only two percent this fiscal year, tax collection projections are already running short. Mayor Chavez ordered a hiring freeze for vacant positions last year when the economy slowed. You have to wonder now much more water he can get out of that rock if a major recession takes hold. He has not cut services, and delivering those services with fewer employees who are eligible for overtime have to be taking their toll.

Fifty-three percent of the city budget goes to public safety. If things get rough, Chavez's instinct may be to promise no layoffs at the police and fire departments. But he may want to hold his fire. If there is going to be economic hell to pay, the public may want the 11th Floor to start trimming the fat even in those popular, but perhaps over-budgeted agencies. Critics will charge that Chavez gave the city too many big budgets during the good times, but we didn't see the city council or public objecting. Chavez plans to seek a third term next year. So far, no heavyweight foes have surfaced. Could rough economic waters change that?

In Santa Fe, Governor Big Bill is yet to take serious the suggestion from Senate Finance Committee Co-Chair John Arthur Smith, known by the Guv as "Dr. No," that the state start cutting back nonessential spending. This as the projected energy surplus disappears in the face of declining oil and natural gas prices. But if prices don't rebound soon, a day of reckoning will come. The state has ample reserves to cushion an initial decline, but if it gets deep, cherished state government jobs, for the first time in memory, could be eyed for possible layoffs or a hiring freeze. Don't say we didn't tell you.

HEINRICH VS. WHITE

This ad from Dem congressional hopeful Martin Heinrich against Republican rival and Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White drew real blood. It hits White for losing a confidence vote from state police when he headed up the state department of public safety. It drew enough blood for White to come with a response spot Tuesday featuring the parents of slain sheriff's deputy James McGrane. They repudiate Heinrich for questioning White's competence as a lawman. McGrane was killed while making a traffic stop in March 2006. The White ad is posted here. Does the ad exploit the murder of a lawman for political purposes? The parents did agree to appear, but this powerful ad is sure to raise the issue.

READY FOR THE POLL

Insiders say they are hearing the ABQ Journal's first poll of the election season will hit the streets this Sunday. That would mean polling this week. We do know the paper will do only two surveys. If Dem Heinrich is tied or ahead of Republican White in the ABQ House race in this first poll, it would be the first time that a Dem polled ahead this early in the cycle. Heinrich in recent months has come with two polls showing him leading, the most recent last Friday. If the Journal poll does not agree, White's camp will get a boost.

LET THERE BE PEACE

It was a nasty primary fight, that showdown for the northern Dem congressional nomination between Ben Ray Lujan, Santa Fe developer Don Wiviott and an assortment of other contenders. But Wiviott and Lujan appear to be healing their wounds. Don spent in the area of $1.5 million on the nomination fight. He came in second but lost handily to Lujan. Wiviott will be co-hosting a Santa Fe fund-raising reception to benefit Lujan Thursday night. Don's spouse, Kelly, nominated by the Alligators for NM wife of the year for letting Don dip so deeply into the family fortune, will also be on hand. Click on the image for more.

JEFF AND TOM

A Bingaman insider moved to strike down the notion blogged here Tuesday that US Rep and Dem Senate nominee Tom Udall consulted with Bingaman before voting against the $700 billion bailout. Meantime, Bingaman told radio reporters he would have voted for the bailout if he were a House member. But would he have voted for it if he was a House member up for re-election in just a month? If Udall did ask Bingaman for political advice, it's hard to imagine Jeff telling him to vote for the controversial measure. Bingaman hasn't won five Senate terms with a broken hearing aid.

Udall needed an issue to show independents and conservative Dems that he could break from the liberal leadership of his party. He got it in the bailout package. Can Udall (and Pearce) now vote for a different bailout package? It could pose a risk, but much will depend on how united the Congress is in their new approach.

VAMOS A VOTAR POR OBAMA

Now we take you to the far end of the campaign trail, to Taos County, where the New Mexican political music tradition makes its way into yet another century. Take it away......




THE BOTTOM LINES


Elisa Montoya of NM is serving as National Director of Latino Outreach for the Obama campaign. Elisa is a '93 St. Michaels's High grad from Santa Fe, and a grad of USC Law School. She worked on Capitol Hill for Senate Majority Leader Reid and for Colorado Senator Ken Salazar. Stephanie Valencia of Las Cruces is Obama's National Deputy Latino Vote Director. Before coming to the campaign, she was press secretary to Sen. Salazar.

We haven't heard how that $10,000 a person dinner held by former NM Attorney General Paul Bardacke with Caroline Kennedy as the guest went. The daughter of JFK kept her Santa Fe visit for Obama low-key, but did meet with about 175 at a City Different restaurant. That seemed to keep happy those who were complaining that they could not afford to see her.

Just looked at the recent post about State Sen. Lee Rawson again. I called him the minority leader, but he is the minority whip. That's on top of screwing up the registration numbers in his district. That was a rough blogging streak...

Reader Matt Hemmendinger asked that we plug his Obama event. Here it is: "Art for Change will be held at 8:00 pm at the Orpheum Art Space, 500 2nd St. SW, in downtown Albuquerque. People attending the event are asked to donate $10 to the Campaign for Change and the event is open to the public"...And a Republican reader wanted us to point to this McCain page where there is a form to fill out to become a NM Election Day volunteer.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. Help us cover Campaign '08. E-mail your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
Not for reproduction without permission of the author
website design by limwebdesign