Thursday, June 03, 2010

Denish Fires At Martinez With First Negative TV Ad Of Campaign 2010; Intent Is To Define GOP Nominee Before She Takes Hold 

There will be no pause button for Campaign 2010. Freshly minted Democratic Guv nominee Diane Denish has come with paid TV sharply questioning the record and performance of GOP Guv nominee and Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez. A spot that hit Thursday morning "challenges Martinez to explain her broken pledge on felony DWI plea bargains and her horrible murder conviction rate," according to the Denish campaign. You can see the ad here. The campaign came with this back-up info for the ad.

The 30 second spot concludes: "Susana Martinez--broken promises---criminals back on the street. And she wants to be Governor?"

Martinez came with this detailed response to the Denish charges.

The Democratic strategy became evident within hours of the primary election polls closing Tuesday night. Denish lashed out at the Martinez record and the Democratic Party followed up with its own slashes.

But the big issue is paid TV ads which, if done right, can be effective in defining your opponent, especially if she is as unknown as Martinez. And Democrats want to define Martinez early. Her favorable rating right now is presumed to be sky high after her 51% landslide primary victory.

Campaign pros on both sides of the aisle say public interest is still there for the campaign, but will start to fade as we get closer to July. They say the window of opportunity for a negative campaign is open for the next couple of weeks. It will be the always-aggressive Denish who will be the first through the opening.

The Light Guv's campaign has stockpiled some $2.7 million in cash. Martinez's last finance report had her down to $139,000. But getting money raised to respond shouldn't be the problem. It will be getting a well-produced ad up in response and in rotation. Unlike Denish, Martinez's team may be exhausted from a competitive GOP primary which saw intense negative ads between Martinez and Weh.

But in this race for the Governor's chair there will be precious little rest for the weary or anyone else.


On her first day as the Dem Guv nominee Denish joined with her new running mate Brian Colon and headed to Lea County where she will be glad to tell you she was born and raised. Martinez says on her Web site she was "born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley." In a December article the Las Cruces Sun-News said Martinez is a native of El Paso but there have been few, if any, major bio pieces yet delving into Martinez's family background or heritage.

Lea may be the most conservative county in the state and a cornerstone of any strategy to put a Republican in the Guv's chair. President Bush carried the county with a stunning 80% of the vote in 2004, but in 2002, Bill Richardson tied Republican John Sanchez there, cutting the R's off at the pass.

Denish hopes to stall GOP southern momentum in Lea as well as and Martinez's home county of Dona Ana. She and Colon also held events in Las Cruces Wednesday.

The best thing Susana has going for her may be voter angst over a variety of issues, including the sorry economy. Her pollster, Nicole McCleskey of Public Opinion Strategies, came with a memo that made the Martinez case.

In a statewide survey of 500 likely general election voters conducted by Public Opinion Strategies (POS) in late January 2010, 61% of voters believe the state has gotten off on the wrong track. This includes two-thirds of Independent voters (66%) and even 59% of soft Democrats who are dissatisfied with the direction the state is headed.

In a recently released Rasmussen survey conducted among 500 likely voters, 57% of voters disapprove of the job Bill Richardson is doing.

Martinez is already in front among Independent voters, leading 50%-38%.

All of this comes before the inevitable attacks on the DA, but Richardson's unpopularity and whether it sticks to Di has emerged as a central issue.


McCleskey & Moomaw
Nicole is married to GOP consultant Jay McCleskey of Lincoln Strategy Group. He ran the 2000 campaign of John Sanchez when John ousted House Speaker Raymond Sanchez from his ABQ seat. Flash forward to 2010 and John Sanchez, who was the 2002 GOP Guv nominee, is now the GOP Light Guv nominee.

It's not clear how prominent a role John Sanchez will play in the Martinez campaign. In the past, R Light Guv contenders have often been let to go their own way. Think Rod Adair who was John Sanchez's running mate in 2002.

Also playing a prominent if unpaid role in the Martinez campaign is Kevin Moomaw, a former executive director of the NM GOP when John Dendahl was chair in the late 90's. He left NM shortly after Dendhal gave him the ax in 2000. Moomaw later became a senior adviser to Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst. He recently left that post to become a fund-raiser for the University of Texas at Austin.

Moomaw says the insiders are inflating his role: "I did not play a prominent role in Martinez's campaign. I do talk to Jay on occasion but I didn't play a role in her campaign....I think Martinez is an outstanding candidate and I wish her well."

In political circles McCleskey is considered Moomaw's protege. In 2009, McCleskey ran the campaign of RJ Berry who was elected mayor.


With such a huge victory--51% in a five way field---Martinez operatives can't be very concerned that Allen Weh refused to endorse her on Election Night. She made some conciliatory comments about the former GOP party chairman in her victory speech, but Weh did not give a formal endorsement of her candidacy, although he did call to congratulate her.

The pair waged a bruising negative campaign in the closing weeks of the campaign and GOP Chair Yates turned on Weh and said one of his TV ads employed "dishonesty."

Weh may be 67 and a tough retired Marine Reserve Colonel, but his skin seems thin when it comes to the battlefield of La Politica. Maybe that's one of the things voter sensed about him and then tgave the hardened prosecutor from Cruces the go ahead.


The WaPo's Chris Cilizza comes with insider analysis of the Martinez win, saying the DC based Republican Governors Association played a role:

The RGA knew it wanted Martinez as its nominee...They also knew that a Washington-based organization endorsing her might not be a recipe for success in this anti-establishment year. So, they helped steer hundreds of thousands of dollars to her campaign and orchestrated an endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Both moves provided Martinez a significant boost and led to her easy win t that not only gives Republicans a fighting chance in the Democratic-leaning Land of Enchantment but also gives the party a Hispanic female face to push back against the "old, white guy" image the GOP is currently battling.

Chris is right that a direct intervention by the RGA may have been too high risk, but the endorsement by Palin is not without its pitfalls, either. The Dems will make sure their base voters hear about them.

And that "hundreds of thousands of dollars" he references came to Martinez from Texas developer Bob Perry in the form of a $450,000 campaign contribution, the largest in state history, and one that has raised eyebrows as Martinez attacks her Dem rivals for presiding over a pay-to-play administration

Insiders tell us the RGA has not yet committed to big money for Martinez for the general election. They would like to, but the decision will be based on how she stands in the polls.

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