Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Martin Heinrich: Working Class Hero? He Makes TV Pitch, Plus: More Analysis Of Senate Race, Also: Susana Approval At Solid 56% In Latest Survey 

Funny how gasoline below three bucks a gallon looks like a deal these days, but it does. After holding our collective breath over possible $5 a gallon, this crack below the $3 mark at the Valero station on Sandia Pueblo land in north Albuquerque, looked like a bargain, We haven't seen many other stations follow suit. There are fewer taxes on gas sold by the pueblos.

The gas price is especially sensitive for the legions of New Mexico workers who make $10 or $15 bucks an hour. An uptick of a buck a gallon is glaring for them, while the professional classes grimace, they don't feel it anywhere near as much.

It is those blue collar and service workers hurt the most by high gas prices and high unemployment who seem to be clearly in the sights of Dem US Senate candidate Martin Heinrich as he unveils his first TV spot since the June primary.

He positions himself as connecting with the working man, as he is shown building a house with a group of workers and saying: "I've always enjoyed building things..." He also points out that he sponsored a bill to raise the minimum wage while on the ABQ city council.

Heinrich concludes this spot---speckled with biographical info--by saying, "I believe in the dignity of work."

It is the bread and butter of those blue collar and working class Dems, many of whom are no stranger to voting Republican.

Heinrich is not rich and his family was strictly middle class. That ordinary background contrasts sharply this cycle with the debate over Romney and could make the ad resonate with the "hands on" Dems it is aimed at.

Like Heinrich, Heather Wilson also hails from relatively humble beginnings, but she is getting the backing of some of the wealthiest Americans. The Chamber of Commerce PAC has come with a 30 second spot for the GOP Senate nominee that calls her "an independent voice" who has sound energy policies. Wilson is losing the independents in the early polling and there's no way she can win this election if she loses them.


Our Senate race starts to get national attention. The WaPo visits here and asks whether Republican Heather Wilson can garner enough of the Hispanic vote to overtake Dem Martin Heinrich. Key points:

Her essential problem is that New Mexico is 47 percent Hispanic, and those voters tend to vote Democratic, particularly in presidential election years. Barack Obama won New Mexico with 57 percent of the vote in 2008...The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials estimates that 35 percent of New Mexico’s voters will be Hispanic this year, a share of the electorate that is higher than in any other state. “It’s a swing state trending to the Democrats, and part of that is its cultural diversity,” said Robert Lang, director of Brookings Mountain West at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. “It’s a majority-minority state with a large Hispanic population. Nevada and Colorado are truer swing states. New Mexico is a little more solidly blue, but I wouldn’t discount it if you had a moderate Republican.”

We tell the paper that Wilson on her own performs well among Hispanics It is the harsh reputation the Republican Party currently has among many Hispanics that is a yoke around her neck:

To succeed, Wilson will have to win over some conservative Democrats, along with a sizable share of independents, said Joe Monahan, a political blogger and analyst in New Mexico. It will be tough.

“Wilson has been around a long time, but when you’re reaching out to a larger part of the electorate, the Democrats’ registration advantage kicks in,” Monahan said. “Her hope would be to win the race with the independent vote. She’s kind of held down by the yoke of her Republican affiliation.”

The political community here is still absorbing the unusual news that Heinrich and Wilson have agreed to three televised debates in October. That's a lot of important exposure and one of our Alligators came with this take on what the debate and the presidential campaign means to the campaign:

The fact that these debates are on and settled in the Senate race at this early date is pretty remarkable.  Heinrich doesn't act defensive or intimidated by Wilson. Both candidates seem interested in debating. They actually scheduled them at decent times when people might watch. But debates only help so much and Wilson shouldn't assume these are game changes for her. They're only potential game changers if she puts the seat into play and she has some work to do to get there. 

The presidential race will help Heinrich, most likely because it gives him the advantage in ABQ (due to a strong Obama ground game). That wipes away Wilson's advantage there and forces her to rely on the rural vote which she still has yet to cement after the divisive 2008 GOP Senate primary she had with Steve Pearce....


The Senate race has remained remarkably static and the newest poll has it staying that way. The PPP poll--a Democratic firm--says Heinrich leads Wilson 48% to 43%. The five point lead is one better than a survey released last week by an enviornmental group that had Heinrich ahead by four (49-45). Another automatic phone survey conducted last week by a Republican oriented group put the Heinrich lead at a more robust nine points--51% to 42%.

There is an early indication of trouble for Wilson in that she is not breaking past 45% in any survey, even as Heinrich moves to the upper 40's and across 50% in that one poll. Her "unfavorable" rating in PPP is a high 49%. That could mean there is a ceiling on her support and that she will need to run a strong attack campaign against Heinrich in order to win. That should begin in a month or so,

The Wilson campaign again complains that PPP is oversampling Democrats, but as we have repeatedly pointed out there has not been a single poll that has shown her tied or ahead. For sure, her campaign fears that these polls will hurt fund-raising, but attacking PPP's accuracy and not that of the other surveys hurts Heather's credibility. Why not just say you are a couple back and working like crazy to close the gap in October?

Pundits don't hesitate to call the race "close" and give Wilson a chance to win, but she seems intent on framing it as a "dead heat."  It isn't, and the insistence is wearing a bit  thin. Better to fight with Heinrich than with the pollsters. No?


The early stages of emailgate have not punctured the popularity of Governor Martinez. PPP puts her approval rating at 56%. In addition, they say if the 2014 Guv's race were held today she would defeat the only announced Dem candidate--Attorney General Gary King-51 to 39. She would also defeat State Auditor Hector Balderas 50% to 37%, says PPP.

 That poll is best taken as entertainment value at this stage of the game--well over two years before the election. Martinez won election in 2010 with 54% of the vote.

Emailgate still has the potential to damage the Guv. It is a drip, drip, drip affair and has only begun. She and her handlers will be kept busy protecting her popularity, using tactics like showcasing her family (as was featured on the Tuesday blog) and other methods that will continue to present the softer side of the first female Hispanic Governor.

By the way, Martinez's standing among Hispanics in the PPP poll is nearly 40% favorable. That's high for a Republican and explains why she is above the 50% approval mark.

The polling company says: PPP surveyed 724 New Mexico voters from July 13th to 16th. The margin of error for the survey is +/-3.6%. This poll was not paid for or authorized by any campaign or political organization. PPP surveys are conducted through automated telephone interviews. 

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