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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Illegal Immigration? Now Only A Trickle, Plus: Balderas Scores "Get" With Denish Endorsement, But Is There Message Trouble Ahead? 

Looks like Governor Susana can chill some over the prospect of marauding hordes flooding across the border and scarfing up all the New Mexico driver's licenses they can cram into their wallets. The latest:

The extraordinary Mexican migration that delivered millions of illegal immigrants to the United States over the past 30 years has sputtered to a trickle, and research points to a surprising cause: unheralded changes in Mexico that have made staying home more attractive.

A growing body of evidence suggests that a mix of developments--expanding economic and educational opportunities, rising border crime and shrinking families--are suppressing illegal traffic as much as economic slowdowns or immigrant crackdowns in the United States.


NO CLIFF DWELLING

A reader writes of our Wednesday blog on the Guv's 52% approval rating in the PPP poll:

Joe, unlike other Republican Governors who were elected last year, Susana did not drive her honeymoon car over the cliffs by slashing and burning all of state government..."

True enough, but as we've said previously voters in Dem dominated New Mexico have Martinez on a short leash and she knows it. A move to the radical right on the key economic issues would incinerate her. That's why during her campaign she said she would cut bureaucracy in Medicaid and public education--not medical services or school teachers. Those promises are being closely monitored. (We talked more about the latest Guv poll with TV news).

DI AND HECTOR

That was a nice "get" for Hector Balderas Wednesday. The day after he released a solid fund-raising report, former Lt. Governor Diane Denish endorsed his candidacy for the Dem Senate nomination over Rep. Martin Heinrich. The Denish endorsement could help Hector raise money, attract southern Anglo votes and boosts his credibility.

So what could be wrong? Well, actually quite a bit--not with Di's endorsement--but with the accompanying message. Leave it to the Alligators to go contrary--and with all teeth bared:

If you didn't know better, you might have thought Denish and Balderas were a pair of cautious accountants--not the opposition to one of the most conservative Republican parties in modern history. On a telephone news conference, she said:

"I think that Hector's experience, his approach to fiscal accountability, fiscal responsibility, is one of the great parts of his record and the kind of skill set that we need in Washington."

Well, as Di's critics might say, "There she goes again." It was that kind of vague semi-conservatism that cost Denish and Brian Colon emotional support in their own party in last year's Governor's race, and it could signify a weakness for Balderas as well. Hector's news release announcing the endorsement came with this head scratcher of an opening:

Citing his record of bringing accountability to government in order to invest in education and economic opportunity, former New Mexico Lt. Governor and 2010 Democratic nominee for Governor Diane Denish today endorsed Hector Balderas for United States Senate.

What? No Social Security, no Medicare, no Medicaid, no unemployment, no talk of massive income inequality? And nothing about higher taxes for the uber-rich? The "fiscal accountability" talk in Washington is scaring the bejesus out of Mr. and Mrs. America, has Republicans on the defensive and the nominating wing of the Democratic Party on the move. And Hector decides to go vegetarian when the crowds are crying for red meat?

Some of Hector's fiscal message might resonate in a general election, but Balderas remains the decided primary underdog against a sitting U.S. Congressman who has a 2 to 1 money lead and a 23 point polling lead. What are these consultants playing for here? Senior partner in an accounting firm or a seat in the United States Senate?

Balderas seems to be indicating that the national deficit is the most pressing issue facing the USA. Many, many Democrats who vote in primaries are not going to get warm and fuzzy feelings hearing that. And big Dem money givers might also be inhibited.

In making a smooth play with Denish, Hector revealed his biggest current weakness--an inchoate message that indicates his campaign believes (wrongly) that conservative sounding, diaphanous talk is going to win this primary. Or maybe their thinking is that ethnicity will trump everything. But ideas still matter. Having a world view matters. Didn't Denish and Colon learn that the hard way? And while ethnicity is important, perhaps it is not quite as important as Team Balderas is supposing in a high information race like US Senate.

Hector has plenty of time to refine his message and his personal story remains compelling and moving, but right now that sound you're hearing is opportunity knocking on Martin Heinrich's door.

THE BACK STORY
Denish
So what's the back story on Di going for Hector? From one of our Democratic Alligators we get the low down:

The timing of Denish's endorsement was no coincidence, coming as it did after Hector came with a good finance report. She was behind Hector from day one, but could not endorse a candidate who might not have made it through the summer. Aside from Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, no elected official worked harder for Denish in her Governor race than Hector, especially in the North.

Denish and her crowd have been quietly pushing things around for Hector trying to help those donations roll in, but as Balderas has legitimized his campaign there is no more quiet work to be done--it's loud and proud behind Hector. Heinrich had to know the endorsement was coming because he did absolutely nothing to help Denish in last year's election, nothing. While he ultimately won his race, he burned a bridge and as you know La Politica doesn't forget.

Other Alligators note that if Denish ever runs again for political office she will need Hispanic voters. Her endorsement of Balderas helps that cause.

And, yes, it was interesting that no photos were released of Denish endorsing Balderas. You fill in that blank.

MONEY CHASE

A reader writes of the fund-raising summaries from Dem US Senate candidates Martin Heinrich and Hector Balderas:

In order to avoid offending Hispanics in a swing state, major donors and players held back from Heinrich. Now they have good reason to take a closer look at Balderas.

Heinrich raised $485,000 in the April quarter, what we took to be a healthy amount. But not everyone agreed, including that reader and this analysis from the National Journal's Hotline blog:

Balderas made his mark, raising over $400,000 in the first quarter, nearly matching the $485,000 that Heinrich brought in. Balderas' ability to fund raise was one of the biggest question marks on his campaign - that's not the case any longer. And Heinrich's near half-million haul is a little underwhelming, given that he's a sitting member of Congress with the fundraising perks that position entails....

There may be something to our reader's comments about donors pulling back a bit on Martin. A couple of months ago the Dem senatorial committee was quite careful not to give an endorsement to Heinrich, even as they endorsed in another contested Dem Senate primary. We noted at the time that overlooking a Hispanic candidate like Balderas could be treacherous for the national Dems.

They say Rep. Heinrich actually enjoys raising money over the phones. Well, he's got his marching orders--raise even more.

By the way, in our first draft Wednesday we called Heinrich a native of Missouri. He was actually born in Nevada and grew up in Missouri.

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