Friday, October 26, 2012

Could Susana's Dream Become Her Nightmare? Anguish May Await Her In Santa Fe No Matter The Election Results, Plus: The Final Senate Debate And Why This Race Is So Hard For Heather 

Governor Martinez has unleashed the weapons of political war against Dem Senate leaders Michael Sanchez and Tim Jennings, but it may fall into the category of "Be careful what you wish for, Susana."

Former GOP Chairman Harvey Yates, Jr. of all people was first out of the gate with a warning to the Governor, arguing in a widely read op-ed piece that dethroning Jennings as Senate President Pro Tem would move the Senate to the "left." He's supporting Jennings and openly chastising Martinez's political consultants, saying they need to "have their wings clipped."

So what's Harvey getting at? Well, Jennings was made pro tem by getting all the Senate Republicans to vote for him, along with a handful of Dems. If he loses, capital observers say that coalition probably goes away and the position reverts to symbolic as it has often been in the past. That would make it even harder for Susana to persuade the Senate to treat her program kindly.

And what if Majority Leader Sanchez were to lose his powerful post? The wall-leaners predict chaos, but what would emerge would probably not be favorable to the Governor.

Many Senators are mentioned as possible Sanchez replacements, but one of the most intriguing bandied about is ABQ Dem State Senator Linda Lopez, chair of the powerful Rules Committee. Putting a Hispanic female majority leader against the first female Hispanic governor makes a lot of political sense--if Lopez could convince the caucus she has the right stuff.

So even if Susana were to prevail against both Sanchez and Jennings it is highly improbable the political landscape would bend in her favor. In fact, it's more likely to go even further against her.

And not to get ahead of ourselves, most independent observers say Sanchez and Jennings still hold the edge in their re-election battles.


Another scenario getting attention in the inner sanctums of La Politica is total victory against Martinez--both Jennings and Sanchez win and the Dems picking up a couple of seats in the state House. From the Gator pond:

"It may sound far-fetched but this campaign has been so ugly, that you could see something down the road, like a Legislature that tries to override some of this Governor's vetoes. The campaign has been that alienating. 

It would take 28 votes in the 42 member Senate to override a veto and 47 votes in the 70 member House. If the Dems win, their strategy could be to send Susana bills to veto and then shoot for the override. She would be forced to hold her Republican ranks each and every time. Some could fold if they have tight races this year and then try to appease the Democrats. 

Don't say it couldn't happen. Look at former Republican Chairman Yates--he is sending a signal it is okay to oppose the Governor's political operation and that could have an impact. 

As for the state GOP bolting from their own Governor, remember 2002? We do. That's when the Legislature--including the Republicans--called themselves into extraordinary session to override his veto of the state budget.

There is a deep split forming in the New Mexican Republican Party over the conduct of this election. Only the healing salve known as victory will seal it up.


Heather Wilson performed masterfully again and Martin Heinrich was no slouch when the two met in their final televised debate on KOB-TV Thursday night (Full debate is here). So why does Heinrich continue to hold a solid lead in the polls? Well, Wilson has lost her audience. Unlike 1998, when she was elected to the ABQ House seat, the Republican Senate hopeful is now talking to a much more liberal electorate. Her service in the Bush years is a yoke around her neck.

For example, Wilson tried to wiggle out of her long ago support of "privatization" of Social Security saying today that at one time she was for what she calls "personalization." Say what?

And she repeatedly said Heinrich did "not understand" how Social Security was budgeted for in Washington, but this is the fella who cut a Social Security ad in 2010 that was so devastating that it sent Republican Jon Barela to his political grave when he failed to reject the privatization charge.

In their final confrontation Heinrich kept returning to Social Security and Medicare, making Heather dig out of the hole the Ryan budget has created for her. She did yeoman's work with her shovel, but being on the defense is not her style.

Wilson slammed the ball out of the park as she did in the last debate when she placed the loss of Los Alamos Labs jobs on the Heinrich watch. And she gets you out of your seat when she talks of New Mexico's "unique contribution" to national security and why our federal funding should be preserved. But that's a slice of the electorate, while Heinrich hogs most of the pie.

He slam dunks with clean energy, Social Security, Medicare and a balanced approach to a balanced budget. Those are the top of the mind issues of the 21st century state electorate. Not to say he does poorly on Heather's national security turf. He doesn't, pointing out that he saved the 1,000 jobs of the Kirtland Air Force Base Tacos, even as Wilson charges he could not preserve their fighter mission. Still, jobs are jobs.


Harry Pavlides
Veteran Dem political analyst and pollster Harry Pavlides came with some of the best analysis we've seen on why Heinrich is heavily favored to win the open United States Senate seat November 6 and replace retiring Senator Jeff Bingaman:

"Joe, we both agree that Wilson is speaking to another time and a conservative/moderate electorate that is no longer around--except for San Juan County, the south and the east. She argued well in the KOB debate--but she argued the wrong points--and that's why she lost and that's why she is going to lose this election. 

She is out of touch with the majority of voters. Her message did not play well with the state's university communities, in Santa Fe or in Bernalillo County which is much more liberal than when she represented it. 

Heather's last election was the 2008 Republican Senate primary when she lost to conservative Steve Pearce. That defeat seems to have kept her in the conservative corner too long. If this were 2002, she may have won the debate and the election, but it's not.

Heinrich has been boring in these debates, but he talked about the right issues for New Mexico--and that played well in the cities, and his Social Security stance even played well in places like Roswell. He is not a flashy speaker, but he is believable. I'm not saying they don't believe her, but they trust him.

For example, in the 2010 election he stuck with his personal liberal agenda and held on to his congressional seat when many others were losing theirs in a conservative sweep. For that reason, voters believe and trust him. Again, I'm not saying Wilson did not do well. She did very well--but with all the wrong issues.

Thanks, Harry. We think you pretty much nailed it to the wall.


Just one full week to go in Campaign '12. Over the weekend the mailboxes will bulge with final days hit literature and on Sunday the ABQ Journal will release its final poll. We'll be back here Monday-- sooner if events merit--to keep you up to date.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan

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