Monday, August 02, 2010

Susana Took June; Di Won July; Our Oddsmakers Now Make Denish 6 to 5 Fave For November, Plus: The Economy And The Campaign, And: No Steele Stomach 

After two full months of Campaign 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Diane Denish is a narrow 6 to 5 favorite to take the prize in November over GOP hopeful Susana Martinez. That's the latest from a consensus of Senior Alligators, Wall-Leaners, Worry Warts, Hangers-On and assorted political junkies we've consulted. Surprised? Read on...

Denish remains the betting favorite because of the state's overwhelming Democratic voter registration. Dems are at 50%, R's are 32% and independents 15%. Another reason is her substantial cash account--over $2 million--ensuring she will have the resources to take the race to the finish no matter what.

The odds mean that a $5 bet on the Martinez horse would return $11, including the original $5 bet. A $5 bet on the Denish horse would return $9 and some change, including the original bet.

The month-to-month battle looks like this. Martinez won June as Denish came with attack TV that did not stand up to scrutiny and seemed out of place so soon after the primary. Martinez also enjoyed momentum from her impressive primary win over four GOP opponents on June 1.

Denish carried July by getting on track with a more positive message and as the novelty of Martinez began to ebb somewhat. Denish is being dumped on in elite Dem circles but outwardly her campaign has held its ground and made fewer mistakes than Martinez. (We covered that extensively and exclusively for you in our July 12th blog.)

Martinez is competitive because her strong anti-corruption message and tough-as-nails stand on immigration has already consolidated the GOP and much of the conservative independent vote. Her status as the first female Hispanic Guv nominee has also helped to invigorate the candidacy. And perhaps foremost, the lousy economy has sent voters looking at the R alternative.

Now we have turned the calender to August and the race is being labeled a toss-up. The latest poll released June 23 from the Republican firm Magellan Strategies confirms that assessment, showing Martinez with a one point lead--44% to 43%.

But the betting crowd wants odds to take Susana for the win because they are looking ahead--not at the here and now. Besides those daunting registration numbers, they wonder about her cash reserves. She appears to have been outspent on July TV. No public reports are due until mid-September.

So what are the odds that the political handicappers will be confounded more than once in the weeks ahead as the race shifts around? That bet seems like a sure thing.


As we noted, Martinez has gotten major mileage on the corruption issue, but we don't know yet if that will be enough to take her over the top.

Veteran pollster Brian Sanderoff says voters are so accustomed to corruption headlines that they sigh with resignation and fret "that both sides do it." That would indicate Martinez would need the economic issue to put her over the top with the undecided block.

She has some fresh ammo in that regard. KRQE-TV comes with a report that shows how Big Bill has announced thousands of jobs coming to the state, but they never materialized. The key stats:

Since taking office in 2003 the Richardson administration announced at least 63 businesses starting up in New Mexico or moving to the state with 50 or more jobs each. Today only 37 of those companies actually have employees in the state.

From 2003 through 2009, of the 17,060 jobs the Richardson administration said were coming to New Mexico, 6,276 jobs exist today.

That sounds like a ready-made campaign ad for Martinez.


Where are all the jobs? Well, not all of them are with the Federal government, but take a gander at these numbers we found in a real estate brokerage newsletter.

In addition to the 4,800 military personnel employed at Kirtland Air Force Base, the facility employs another 35,690 civilian employees and contractors, including the 8,400 working for Sandia National Laboratories.

That's 40,490 jobs tied directly to Kirtland and Sandia, and that doesn't even count the dozens of contractors and their employees.

The state reports that the current ABQ area work force is about 370,000 so the direct jobs at Kirltand and Sandia represent 11 percent of our entire employment base. We don't have the payroll numbers, but with many of those salaries well above average, the base payroll has to comprise well over 11% of the metro's total.

Then there's the construction and maintenance money for all the state's bases:

U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall today reported that legislation moving through Congress contains more than $292 million to support New Mexico’s military installations and National Guard facilities.

The Senate’s version of the fiscal year 2011 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies (MilCon/VA) Appropriations bill has cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee and is now ready for full Senate consideration.

A number of New Mexicans are uncomfortable with the huge military and nuclear industry here, but all can agree that ABQ would basically blow away into Texas if KAFB were to ever close.


Despite setbacks in attracting private sector jobs, Dem guv nominee Denish slogs on. Her latest on the topic is headlined:

Denish: New Mexico's Recovery Will be Fueled by High-Tech, Renewable Energy Jobs

That may be true long term--very long term--but technology jobs peaked long ago in New Mexico. Intel in Rio Rancho once employed 5,500; now only about 3,000 work there. As for renewable energy, thousands of jobs in that sector will not be created in the next four or five years to replace those lost.

Most renewable projects employ in the dozens, not the hundreds. The solar projects that have come here and claimed they would hire hundreds if not thousands have all crashed and burned due to Chinese competition or lack of financing or both.

Has Denish and Democratic policy wonks absorbed that messsage yet? Denish's proposals to build on the health care industry may offer more hope for large-scale job creation.


Meanwhile, State Senator John Arthur "Dr. No" Smith, who has done yeoman's work in pointing out time and again that the sky really is falling when it comes to the state budget and economy, has some thoughts on job growth. But it's probably best that the Deming powerhouse stick to the budget. His proposal for getting the state's economy moving is to reduce regulation of the copper and oil and gas industries.

But it is the worldwide bear market causing a demand crash, not regulation, that is causing the loss of jobs in our extractive industries. (That's especially true when it comes to natural gas which generates the most energy royalty money for the state).

When oil, gas and copper prices recover so will a large segment of the state economy. Will we ever again have annual surpluses in the hundreds of millions because of energy royalties? Not likely.

Martinez & Chairman Steele
Was it red or green that did in national GOP Chairman Micheal Steele? That was the question in the wake of his Thursday ABQ visit on behalf of Susana Martinez. Steele said he came down with food poisoning after attending the fund-raising reception held on behalf of Martinez at the posh home of her running mate--GOP Lt. Gov. nominee John Sanchez. (We've posted an exclusive photo from the event where press coverage was prohibited). The chairman cancelled his appearance before a group of black journalists to take time to recover. But Steele says he did not eat at the Sanchez party and won't disclose where he did dine during his visit. Our GOP Alligators at the event inform that the catered food served was Mexican fare, including, of course, red and green chile. Judging by the look on Steele's face in this pic, he may have already been stricken before getting to the Sanchez home, but we can't be certain.

This calls for investigative reporting or blogging or something.

Was the chairman a victim of a Democratic-inspired chile poisoning plot? Will the Dona Ana County District Attorney's office play the lead role in the probe of this mishap? Where exactly did the chairman eat and when did he eat it? Will the chairman stand for public questioning on this matter? Will New Mexico's chile, the possible culprit in the Steele poisoning, be cleared of this besmirching of its reputation? Or will this incident lead to a collapse in chile demand, further damaging the state's economy and costing Susana Martinez the election??

Inquiring minds want to know!

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