Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sunday Special: A Near Dead Heat in ABQ Journal GOP Guv Poll: Weh gets 31%; Martinez Scores 30%; Rest Of Field Lags; Our Analysis Is Up Next 

Call it a Super Sunday for Susana Martinez. The Dona Ana County DA pulled within one point of chief rival Allen Weh in the long anticipated ABQ Journal poll of the 2010 GOP Guv primary, and she scored a second coup by getting former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to endorse her just as the newspaper spreading the good polling news hit the driveways.

The political community has had the race narrowed to Weh and Martinez for weeks and the Journal poll confirmed that take. Weh was supported by 31% of those polled. Martinez came with 30%; Pete Domenici Jr. with 10; Doug Turner with 6 and Janice Arnold Jones with 3. Undecided was at 20 percent.

Pre-poll speculation put Weh's lead at about four or five among those who dabble in such predictions. That Martinez was only a single point behind means she gets the momentum from the survey--as well as at least a short-term boost from the Palin visit. The margin of error in the survey taken this past Wednesday thru Friday is 4.4%. It is the only survey of this race the Journal will conduct. The primary is June 1. Early voting is already under way.

But there could be some bad with the good for Martinez. The tightness of this contest increases the chances that we will see negative campaigning and that Weh, with the most to lose, will be the first to go nuclear. This is his first and last political race. He has already sunk $1 million of his personal wealth into the contest and another $250,000 or so would not be unexpected.

Martinez's campaign appeared to be running low on cash. You wonder if they had to get out the credit cards to pay Palin's air fare into ABQ, but this poll will help bring the money she needs. We look for her to tap more money from oil country to finance her final push. They've been with her from the start, including a startling $117,000 contribution from one oil company.

Martinez has been outspent on TV by Weh, but not by an extraordinary amount and the district attorney's message is more sharply focused--on corruption. We're told that is still the number one issue among state R's even as it recently registered third in importance among state Dems. (The Journal polled this issue this past week and will release findings Monday).

Weh's TV has been praised as well-produced and effective by GOP consultants, but it is more of a big tent message. Analysts speculate Martinez may be doing a better job of tapping into Republican anger. The Sunday Palin visit is another step in that direction.

As far as Weh's line of attack if he chooses to go that route, he was in the field recently testing negative messages about Martinez's previous registration as a Democrat and her career as a government employee. As for Martinez's counterattack, most analysts say they aren't sure where she goes. But as a political unknown and never having been subjected to major negative attacks, the Martinez camp has to be worried that it could throw them off their stride and get Weh moving again.

And where do those three second-tier candidates go? With a race this close among the top two, they have some leverage. Will any of them endorse our two front runners?

Just a couple of the questions to ponder in this race as we put on the popcorn and pull up a chair to watch the final two weeks of action. Stay tuned.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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