Monday, August 18, 2014

King In Gambling Territory; Guv Gets to 50% Against Him But No More; Does He Write The Check? Plus: Top Analysts And Insiders Weigh In On This First Major Poll Of '14 Guv Derby, And: Bye, Bye, Brooks 

Sunday's ABQ Journal poll showing  Governor Susana Martinez beating Democrat Gary King 50 to 41 percent with 9 percent undecided wasn't a stunner, but it did demonstrate that enthusiasm for the first term Republican Governor has peaked. The obvious is that she remains favored for re-election. But this is now a campaign that will draw more scrutiny than it did over the summer.

Martinez has thus far been blessed by weak opposition in King, but because this poll does not have the Governor closing out the race early, it gives him what could be a brief window of opportunity. With $4 million in cash, Martinez will move rapidly to close that window. King's campaign kitty was a mere $116,000 last month.

This poll appears to put him firmly in gambling territory. Is the race on the cusp of being winnable and sways him to write a check from his family wealth for $1 or $2 million? Or does he plod ahead hoping serendipity strikes?

(King came back on TV last week with an ad about his family's legacy of service to the state).


The pundits, Alligators and insiders were quick to weigh in on the first public poll of the '14 Guv derby that has widespread credibility and a long history of accuracy.

Pollster Bruce Donisthorpe had the Guv race at 53-to 40 in favor of Martinez in a June 10 automatic phone poll he conducted for the NM Republican Party. He says:

The Journal poll shows that all the Republican vote is now in and going predictably for the Governor. She has dropped some with independents and Democrats over the summer. Independents are the key for King to break the race open which is why you are seeing much talk about education from both sides. It is high on the list of issues for independents. 

The ball is in King's court. He has to make the next move. I would expect he would run a more aggressive TV campaign against her than what we have seen. Unless King interrupts the campaign and the turnout model, Martinez is trending toward the 52-53 percent mark.

Martinez won election in 2010 by beating Diane Denish 53.29% to 46.55%. In the 2010 August 23-27 ABQ Journal poll Dem Diane Denish pulled 39% to Martinez's 45%.


Former ABQ GOP City Councilor Greg Payne--now an independent--has consulted a wide variety of campaigns including GOP Governor Gary Johnson's 1994 winning effort. His take:

The good news for Martinez, she’s in the lead. The bad news--after spending heavily attacking her opponent and getting consistently favorable coverage from most of the media--she’s only at 50%. There’s no question she wants to be polling much higher than that, and ought to be in the high 50s.

Martinez is positioned well to win the election, but not because of her record or her campaign. She has a state full of disorganized and demoralized Democrats to thank for that. 

In a sense, the most important part of this campaign was the psychological war the Martinez machine successfully waged against Democrats, convincing them they could not win in 2014 and should just go along, play nice and position themselves for the 2018 election. These polls numbers show they could have won this November if they’d bothered to try.

The Journal poll is not a resounding show of strength from Martinez. If King were winning Democrats the way Martinez is winning Republicans, if Albuquerque--a Democratic city--were supporting King and not his Republican opponent, this would be a much different election. 

Dem pollster and consultant Harry Pavlides agrees with Donisthorpe on the trend and adds:

The goods news for the Democrats is that it appears a Democratic disaster will be averted. The bad news is that King still appears to be about 54,000 votes behind. He is going to have to motivate Democratic voters to change the turnout model. Martinez has peaked but projected turnout takes her to the 53 percent area. King needs to sweeten up Democrats who are not enthusiastic about him. He will need to spend heavily on TV and go negative in a big way. . . 

Martinez and her allies spent $1 million on TV over the summer--much of it attacking King--but she is not past 50 percent. That shows that everything isn't rosy over there. Besides jobs and the economy, King should look to social issues--like the right of women to control their health care--in order to get Democratic women to vote.


From the Alligator pond comes this from an insider Dem:

The Governor at 50% is the big story here. She has peaked out and it should be a wake up call to the Governor's people that she needs to change her image and policies to have a stronger November showing. If she wants to be a national figure, now is the time to show something special and run up the scoreboard on a lackluster Democratic candidate. But it looks like she is having a very hard time doing that.

King is surviving on the base Democratic vote  and not much more. He needs to win back Democratic Hispanic votes from Martinez and be more competitive in Albuquerque with independents. But we've all known this for months. The question is: What is Gary King doing about it? So far, the answer is "not much." There's 9% undecided and the rule of thumb is that 3/4 of that vote should go to the challenger, which means we are talking a 53-47 race which puts it well in the realm of King winning. But without a plan, without a strategy, that ain't gonna happen.

Does Martinez at 50 percent influence the down ballot races? This Gator thinks so:

The somewhat good news here for Dems is that the Governor is not safe enough for her to generate a lot of coattails or to start spending on the lower ballot races. This should make state auditor candidate Tim Keller and secretary of state candidate Maggie Toulouse Oliver happy. It also might take some heat off state House Democrats.  But the bad news for Dems is the turnout model. This election is becoming a snoozer and Dems have to watch out for a low-turnout election dominated by conservative Anglo seniors voting Republican. Young people, Hispanics and women are less interested this year. If  party leaders want to avoid a black eye they need to generate some enthusiasm.


Well, they didn't exactly run him out of town on a rail, did they? In fact, ABQ Public Schools Superintendent Winston Brooks resigned Friday accompanies by glowing statements of approval as the APS Board appeared to shiver in sheer fear that he would sue the pajamas off them--for what we don't know, but something.

Then there's that weird legal clause involving his wife Anne that states no one at APS better say anything nasty about her--or else. It seemed to be the tip-off that the Board simply did not have the goods on Brooks. So they had to buy the 62 year old out with a plump $350,000 check, a letter of recommendation and that promise to see no evil and hear no evil when it comes to Mr. and Mrs. Winston Brooks. So what specifically are taxpayers paying Brooks $350,000 for? Inquiring minds would like to know but it may take a court battle to find out.

The Guv and Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera--who long battled with Brooks--were no doubt glad to see him go. Whether they played a hand in his departure, we'll leave to the Black Helicopter crowd (of which we are a charter member). Now we wait to see if the APS turmoil spills onto the campaign trail. . .

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