Friday, January 30, 2009

The State's Top Two By The Numbers: Bill's Polling Slips; Di's Cash Rises; Can He Rebound? Can She Break From The Pack? The Analysis And The Outlook 

He's hanging in there, but New Mexicans don't hold their Governor in as high esteem as they did in his glory years. The latest SurveyUSA poll conducted for KOB-TV has 47 percent of the respondents giving Big Bill the thumbs up and 50 percent disapproving. The margin of error is 4.1%. If you're charitable, you can say about half of the state approves of the Guv's performance. Back in October, SurveyUSA had the Guv scoring a 58 percent approval rating and 37 percent disapproving. The 47 percent approval was Bill's lowest SurveyUSA rating since 2005. (Video here.)

Richardson spinners can argue that the 47 percent is pretty darn good considering the Guv has just endured the worst stretch of media criticism in his long career. The federal grand jury pay to play investigation that thwarted his nomination to become Obama's commerce secretary has generated headlines worldwide and cast aspersions on Bill's integrity---the treasure of any career politician. Others can spin back that Bill is usually well into the 50's when it comes to approval, and that this survey shows he is on a long downward path.

Bill takes a particular hit with independents in this survey. His disapproval rating among them is 70 percent. The Independents are traditionally sensitive to corruption in government charges. The Guv's approval rating in the ABQ metro is no different than statewide, with both at 47 percent. KOB-TV's Valerie Castro tells us Richardson's popularity in SurveyUSA topped out at a stunning 74% approval back in May of 2007. Those were the days...


An October '08 ABQ Journal survey gave the Guv a 61% approval rating, but that poll was conducted among "likely voters." SurveyUSA, conducted by automatic phone calls, polls registered voters, but not likely ones. The theory is that casual followers of the news--the registered voter---is more sensitive to the current headlines than likely voters who are more regular news readers and perhaps take a somewhat longer view.

Politicians across the board have been taking a hit because of the economic downturn and the rampant corruption that has been revealed on Wall Street and in some political circles. In fact, Richardson's approval rating among registered, but not likely voters, began to tumble last year. A Rasmussen poll in August gave him only a 49 percent approval rating.

The recent name dropping of Richardson as a possible envoy to North Korea and a positive resolution of the state's budget crisis could help jump the Guv's numbers. But best of all would be a federal grand jury probe that ended uneventfully.


This round of budget cuts the Guv has announced for those "exempt" employees who owe their jobs to him and have some of the highest salaries in either the public or private sector might help with his standing with the public. From UNM to APS to state and city government, the public has had it with the $100,000 and higher paychecks being handed out on their dime. Among the Guv's cuts is a "temporary 2-percent pay cut for all exempt employees under his authority, including those in the Governor’s Office." Why not make it permanent?

Bill also announced the state hiring and wage freeze will continue through June 30, 2010. And what about ABQ Mayor Chavez trimming outsized salaries at City Hall while he fights a $20 million shortfall? This is a mid-sized city with commensurate responsiblities. We can only hope the city's current chief administrative officer doesn't find us "intellectually dishonest" for our views. We just couldn't cope with that burden. Not.


While the state's #1 was mulling over his approval rating, the state's #2 was taking stock of numbers of a different sort--her campaign cash totals. Light Guv Diane Denish is approaching the $2 million mark in her fund-raising for the 2010 gubernatorial derby. She came with this news:

(Denish) raised $466,314.48 in the fourth quarter of 2008 and has $1,751,779.70 in total cash on hand for her gubernatorial run in 2010.

The complete report with donations and expenditures is here.

Di's report shows the lion's share of her take was at the peak of the frenzy over her possibly becoming governor. That was in mid-December when she hosted a $1000 a pop fund-raiser at Yanni's restaurant. It drew politicos from far and wide who love to go where the power is going. But they did not count on the sudden reversal of Big Bill's fortunes and now have to weigh anew Di's odds for capturing the Dem Guv nod. They are still darn good, but the field could grow.

The last thing she wants to do is drop a million bucks on a hotly contested primary, but if actor Val Kilmer, Attorney General King or Senate Majority Leader Sanchez hop into the race, she may have no choice. Kilmer and King both have financial resources they could throw at a Guv run. If he was the leading Hispanic candidate, Sanchez would be formidable even without deep pockets.

Denish has been voluntarily releasing her reports and trying to keep down any outlandish donations. She says she supports campaign contribution limits for state politicians. She took a couple of $10,000 donations--one of them from Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino owner Stan Fulton--but that was the exception. And that seems smart. The public has soured on donations of $50,000 and more that filled Bill's coffers and have led to numerous pay to play stories. Denish has been untouched by scandal and that is her ace in the hole as she tries to become Governor


Di's dough has to have ex-ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson wondering where in the world she is going to get the money to compete if she joins this party. Let's put it this way: If the first head-to head Governor polling doesn't show Wilson competitive in a general election contest with Denish, she could have a hard time shaking anything big from the money tree.


Denish raised over $20,000 on ActBlue, a Web site that raises money for Dems around the nation. Obama showed the power of the Web in fund-raising and we are starting to see more of it on the state level.


Denish was not neglected by Republicans in her fourth quarter fundraiser. The Rainosek's, owner of the popular Frontier Restaurant directly across from the University of New Mexico, donated $2,200. They probably make that in one afternoon of hamburger orders.


It just wasn't Di who was crestfallen when Bill had to opt out of the commerce slot, depriving her of an appointment to the Guv's chair. She had hired two transition aides at salaries of better than $90k a year. Fortunately, they won't be joining the ever-growing ranks of the unemployed. Chris Cervini, transition communications director for the Lt. Gov., managed to get his old job back at Lovelace Health. Kathy Keith, the chief of staff for the transition that was not to be, will go back to consulting. But the duo may want to stand by. The way Big Bill's world changes, we could have a "Take Two" when it comes to transitions.


Not to ruin your weekend, but this report on outlandish Wall Street bonuses continuing amid the economic wreckage of 2008 says it all about why we have gotten ourselves in such a mess. This is not you're father's capitalism. And you know we can do so much better...

E-mail your news and comments, anonymously if you wish.

Not for reproduction without permission of the author
website design by limwebdesign