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Monday, October 13, 2014

King Finally Back On Air; New Spot Tries To Get A Lot Done As He Scrambles To Make Up For Lost Time, Plus: Allen Weh's "So What?" Moment; Udall Audio Catches Him Scorning Minimum Wage For Young Adults; A Campaign Tipping Point?  

Gary King is finally back on the air. He's been dark for over a month, giving Gov. Martinez a free reign over Campaign '14 and nearly putting the race out of King's reach. But one supposes where there's life there's hope.

King's beacon of TV light will be heartily welcomed by fretting Democrats who fear a noncompetitive governor's race will jeopardize their chances to keep the state House in their control and maybe hurt them in the down ballot races.

King's new 30 second spot is filled with so many themes it's as if he's trying to make up for all the lost time he wasn't on the air. Take a deep breath and look at what is crammed into the spot:

Poor student test scores, cuts to education, the state ranking 49th in child welfare, our lowly status in job growth, Martinez's veto of a minimum wage increase and King's support of raising the minimum and restoring education cuts.

Surprisingly, the ad flows quite well. The dreary news is delivered to King over the radio as he drives a pick-up truck with running mate and passenger Debra Haaland. King is shown switching among various radio stations and listening to the dire news reports. As a listener you expect new information each time you switch the radio dial or TV station so this is a rare example of a multiple message ad getting the job done--or at least some of the job. Neither King or Haaland speak in the ad and that also works well for them.

But at this point King's problems are as multilayered as his new TV ad. The spot works to make you feel good about King and Haaland while also trying to effectively attack Martinez's record. If he spends enough, the ad should pop King's numbers with the Democratic base. After all, he is polling below 40% in a state where 47% of the registered voters are Dems. However, as independent analyst Greg Payne, a longtime political consultant and former ABQ city councilor, puts it;

This would be a very good ad if it had aired in June or July, but it is not in context with the recent brutal narrative of this campaign. Martinez's TV hits on King are visceral and very personal. King is still trying to run on the issues and have a positive campaign that doesn't say anything "personal" about the incumbent.

On the other hand, King's ad does come across as a breath of fresh air in a TV atmosphere quickly becoming polluted with negativity. But here's another "But". . .

Martinez has hammered King with unanswered negative TV since Labor Day. Her campaign says her internal polling has her leading 55% to 36%. The ABQ Journal had it 54% to 36% in early September. More recent polling we've seen from sources without an axe to grind show the race where those surveys have it. The Journal is expected to come with one more poll about two weeks before the Nov. 4 election.

If King could post some decent numbers then he might still be able to still generate some excitement and last minute money, but if Payne and others we asked have it right King will have to go heavy on the negative and spend a wheelbarrow full of cash--neither of which he seems prepared to do.

How much will King spend on the airwaves between now and Nov. 4? People familiar with the campaign expect it to be no more than $300,000 with much of that from his personal bank account.

TALKIN' TURNOUT

This is the Democrats nightmare in New Mexico and elsewhere that the D's will work feverishly to overcome in the final campaign weeks:

Polling suggests turnout on Election Day could be very low, even by the standards of recent midterms. That’s bad news for Democrats because core groups in the liberal base are more likely to stay home than are people that lean Republican. A Gallup poll found that voters are less engaged in this year's midterms than they were in 2010 and 2006. Only 33 percent of respondents said they were giving at least “some” thought to the upcoming midterms, compared to 46 percent in 2010 and 42 percent in 2006. Even more troubling for Democrats, Republicans held a 12-point advantage when those paying “some” attention were broken down by party. Historically, the core Democratic constituencies of young people, minorities and single women are more likely to skip voting in midterm elections. The current projections suggest that months of effort by the Democratic Party to engage those groups on issues such as the minimum wage and women's pay may have been in vain.



SO WHAT?

Allen Weh has been hanging in there but will a new TV ad from Sen. Tom Udall be the nail in his political coffin?

In a spot reminiscent of the one that revealed a video recording of Mitt Romney saying 47% of the population doesn't pay taxes, Weh is caught on audio tape arguing that no one below the age of 26 should get a minimum wage. He declares in a voice dripping with derision:

“So what if they’re making four bucks an hour? So what?”

Like the Romney 47% remark, this one reinforces the worst fears about modern Republicanism. That it holds in contempt those who are not well-off and does so with a bold and cold arrogance.

Like Romney Weh is a multimillionaire. He made his comments at the ABQ Economic Forum, a group heavily weighted with affluent business owners and executives. The circumstances were eerily similar to those of Romney who made his "47%" comment before a group of wealthy supporters.

As with the Romney ad, the Udall spot has the feel of a campaign tipping point. Sometimes your campaign trackers strike gold and this may be one of those times.

Udall, seeking a second six year term, has kept his polling above 50%. We and others rank the Senate seat safe Democratic. Still, this has been a hostile enviornment for Democrats as the turnout story above notes. Udall is trending toward a 52%-53% win. By historic standards that is close for an incumbent. That could change if more lower and middle class voters now find themselves saying of Weh's candidacy. "So what if you want to be a Senator? So what?". . .

Weh may get a chance to defend his "so what" comment with Udall in the room. We're hearing that there will be one TV debate between the two contenders. . . Meanwhile, Weh came with his latest TV spot. It targets Udall over the increase in the national debt and for supporting Obama "94 percent of the time.". . . And a final Senate note, the Las Cruces Sun-News endorses Udall for a second term.

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