Monday, September 17, 2012

Soaring Susana: Can She Transfer Her Polling Magic To GOP Candidates? Will She Try? Plus: Why So High? Readers Assess Her Standing, And: Her Bleak Legislative Scorecard; Advice On Improving, And: Death Calls For Lobbying Legend Bob McBride 

When do a Governor's high approval rating translate into political coattails? In New Mexico the answer is hardly ever. But with Governor Martinez scoring a 59% approval rating in a New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan July survey and an even higher 69% approval in the ABQ Journal's survey this month, there is some GOP pressure on Martinez to hit the campaign trail and try to transfer some of her rosy glow to candidates in need. Reader David Williams of Clovis put it this way:

Given her high approval, one has to wonder why the Governor is not out campaigning for Mitt Romney, Heather Wilson, Janice Arnold-Jones, Steve Pearce, and Jeff Byrd. If she did and was able to get them elected, then she really would have star power. The kind of power that could help New Mexico in Washington and would help her get her programs passed in the Legislature. The Legislature would have to look at her in a new light--as a Governor who is probably going to be re-elected and someone they need to get along with in order to get anything done. 

Also, for every person she could get to vote for the Republicans at the top of the ticket, they would be more likely to vote for local Republicans. That could lead to Republican control of the New Mexico House and gains in the Senate.

Martinez has been a ghost on the campaign trail when it comes to campaign events for fellow Repubs--with her appearance at the GOP national convention being the exception. But she has been raising big bucks for Susana PAC and Reform NM PAC is closely aligned with her. Both will contribute heavily to her favored legislative candidates.

But Martinez personally is probably going to continue to be somewhat below the radar on the campaign trail. Remember, in June she suffered a major political blow when she interfered in a Republican state senate primary in Clovis and her favored candidate got thumped, despite Susana's open and enthusiastic support.

That was a crucial lesson for her on the limitations of her influence. Also, the Republican brand is badly tarnished this cycle. Wilson, Arnold-Jones, Romney and Byrd are all well behind here. Martinez already has the support of state Republicans. She needs Dems and independents to secure her re-election. Having too high a partisan profile during the final weeks of Campaign '12 wouldn't help her much. So look for her to use her money to talk in these final weeks and keep that sixtysomething approval rating to herself--perhaps to the chagrin of those Republicans struggling to keep their heads above water.


PhotobucketMore opinion today on why Martinez is flying high in the popularity rankings in a state where nearly half the voters are registered Dems. This Senior Alligator says he has some answers:

There are several things. Many New Mexicans were tired of "a big personality" in Governor Richardson and are pleased with having a "do nothing" Governor.  

She recently spoke at the Republican National Convention and generally received high marks for her speech. 

She is still in her honeymoon stage with the voters--to have an unfavorable opinion at this point would have the voters admitting they made a mistake. 

Falling favorability ratings aren't revealed in a slow progression or slide. It happens suddenly--it is like chopping at a tree and  it is the cumulative effect of much negative actions that results in a dramatic drop in favorability.

There are warning flags. ABQ Mayor Richard Berry is not yet losing favor even as his  police department is in disarray. The Governor and her staff were caught using private e-mail to avoid being subject to public records request. Then there is their under the table dealing with the Downs at Albuquerque and the indiscretions of Chief of Staff Keith Gardner. These instances will have an effect on the popularity of both Berry and Martinez. Again, it happens suddenly. It is not a slow decline into unfavorable territory--it is a sudden fall from grace--ask Bill Richardson.

We would add that Martinez's personal story--her middle class origins and her standing as the first Hispanic female Governor in history have New Mexicans taking pride in her.

Another angle that is interesting--despite the lousy economy and continued jobs depression here, the public does not seem to be impatient with Martinez and Berry. Will that change in the future?


Veteran Dem activist Roxanne Allen weighs in on the Guv's popularity:

Susana Martinez should be very grateful that the Legislature is controlled by Democrats who block her bad ideas. Her numbers would be much lower if people had to suffer more consequences from her policies and bad appointments. As for her governing style, the constant confrontation reinforces her reputation as "prosecutor in chief" of the state.  

We've mentioned that Martinez has not pursued the radical Republican agenda that has gotten a number of her Guv colleagues in deep trouble. Reader Jim McClure has some thoughts about the agenda she has pursued:

What strikes me about the recent polls is the mismatch between the opinions of voters and their legislators on issues such as drivers' licenses for illegals and teacher evaluation. This may be because so many incumbent legislators (including mine) run unopposed at election time. I was hoping Gov. Martinez' popularity would persuade more Republicans to run for the Legislature and give New Mexico an actual two-party system.

It is quite fascinating to see the divide, Jim. It speaks to how difficult it has been for this Governor to transfer her popularity into legislative success.

Remember, Martinez was elected in 2010 on a vague pledge of "bold change." She did not offer a legislative agenda as a candidate that the public rallied behind. They supported her primarily in reaction to the excesses of the Dem incumbent. Legislators know that.

Martinez could put major points on the scoreboard through legislative compromise, but as we have blogged ad nausem she and her political team have instead decided to try to change the composition of the Legislature through attack politics via well-financed political action committees.

The major miscalculation that the Governor seems to be making is that the emotional issue of repealing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants can be the wedge issue that sparks New Mexico voters to defeat numerous Democrats and give her control.

In many races it will not matter that much to the electorate and in others Dems can side with the Governor thus negating the issue. (And as long as the legislative leadership continues to resist the proposal, it will not get through both chambers).

When the Guv fails to significantly alter the legislative dynamic in November, she will again face the choice she has had since assuming office--crafting compromises on major pieces of legislation or continue the gridlock and hope that it does not impact her popularity going into 2014.


Governor Martinez can have a 99% approval rating, but what history is going to judge her on is not how clever she was in getting re-elected or her approval rating, but what she accomplished--if anything. And even partisans would have to agree that this administration is still drifting as it approaches the two year mark, with little to show for it. If she wants to change, here is the way back:

Partisan obstreperousness, the force that propelled Congressional Republicans to widespread victory in 2010, is suddenly for many of them as out of style as monocles. In campaign advertisements, some lawmakers who once dug in against Democrats now promote the wonders of bipartisanship. And legislatively, Republicans in tough races are seeking to soften their edges by moderating their votes, tossing their teacups and otherwise projecting a conciliatory image to voters. 

She might start by ordering her Chief of Staff Keith Gardner to apologize to Senate leader Jennings for the vile language he used about him in a secretly recorded conversation. Then she should show him the door and bring in a staff chief from the business center of the New Mexico GOP and start concentrating less on driver's licenses for illegals and more on building an economy with good paying jobs.


Alligators poring over the latest state campaign finance reports come with this on the battle in the ABQ NE Heights to replace retiring Dem State Senator Tim Eichenberg:

Democrat Daniel Ivey-Soto has raised $43,000, twice what his opponent--former GOP Senator Diane Snyder--raised and has a nearly $20,000 cash advantage.

Snyder lost the seat to Eichenberg in 2008 who decided to not to seek re-election this year. Under redistricting, the seat is more Dem than it was then. Ivey-Soto is favored, but the race has the potential to be close. Will the Guv's PACS play here for Snyder? She may need their help.


A reader contributes this on the long-running problems of the ABQ police department:

As you are very much on top of the various crises wracking ABQ police, I thought this piece might be interesting to you as a comparison. It seems ABQ could use this kind of specialized unit:

A specialized District of Columbia police unit that investigates officer-involved shootings is being split up, as the department's leadership says the need for a team focused exclusively on that issue has diminished in the last decade. The shake-up of the Force Investigation Team program, created in 1999 and credited with helping reduce the number of police-involved shootings, is part of a departmental reorganization, said Police Chief Cathy Lanier. 

APD remains the Achilles Heel for ABQ Mayor Berry. He may be comforted by his polling numbers, but the inability to bring order to the department is a political volcano waiting to explode. It's a matter of when not if.


Rep. Miera & Bob McBride
Affable, well-liked, crafty, trustworthy, wise and fun. That was legendary New Mexico lobbyist Bob McBride. And add in state senator and district court judge and you fill out the resume of one of the more colorful and respected characters ever to travel down the trail of La Politica.

When he died of cancer at 75 Saturday morning, there wasn't a man or woman currently serving in Santa Fe or who has served there during the past 40 years who didn't know of him. His presence during legislative sessions was as expected as the arctic chill that embraces the capitol grounds each January.

He began lobbying in the 70's when the state barely had a million souls. In the mid 70's Governor Apodaca appointed him to the ABQ district court. The state Supreme Court later nullified that appointment based upon a lawsuit that claimed the appointment was unconstitutional because McBride--when he was a state senator--had voted for a pay hike for district court judges and a legislator could not assume a post for which he had previously voted for a pay hike.

McBride's lobbying tools were often from the old school--an after hours drink and a pack of smokes. In fact, he was the longtime lobbyist for Altria, the tobacco company. In 1979 he formed a partnership with Ed Mahr that for 20 years held forth as one of Santa Fe's lobbying powerhouses. Mahr gave us this reaction to McBride's passing:

Bobby represented everything that was good about the lobbying profession. He had a vast knowledge of the legislative process and was honest and forthright in his dealings with legislators. He was well- known by his peers for his integrity and high ethical standards.  But most importantly, Bobby was a family man who dearly loved his wife and children and grandchildren.

We took this photo of Bob or "Bobby" as his close friends and associates called him, a couple of weeks ago at a downtown ABQ hotel where he was attending a fund-raiser for Rep. Kenny Martinez who is in line to replace Ben Lujan as Speaker of the House. McBride is shown with ABQ Dem State Rep. Rick Miera, chairman of the House Education Committee who paid his respects to McBride that night along with senior members of the state's lobbying corp. It was a night of goodbyes as everyone there was well aware that Bob had made his final rounds at the storied Roundhouse.

In 2008, we took a memorable tour of the Capitol from McBride's perspective and blogged about it at length.


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