Monday, October 03, 2016

Come On Down, Hillary; New Poll Gives Dems Pause; Johnson Surge Drains Hispanics Away From Her As Trump Flounders Here, Plus: The Special Session; Senate Defangs House Crime Agenda And Refocuses On Budget Crisis 

Come on, Hillary. Don't be bashful. The weather here is fine, the food is outstanding and your husband is nearly one of our favorite sons. Those are all good reasons for a visit, not to mention our five electoral votes which are decidedly leaning your way but could use a little push from you to seal the deal.

The ABQ Journal poll, conducted from Tuesday through Thursday of last week following the Monday presidential debate, shows a relatively tight three way NM presidential race. Clinton is at 35%, Trump at 31 and Gary Johnson at a somewhat surprising 24%. That's no reason for the Clinton campaign to panic, but it does give them cause to pause.

(Green Party candidate Jill Stein garners 2%.)

With New Mexico off the national pundits list of swings states (and it still is) Clinton has treated it as fly over territory. The campaign presence here has been minimal at best, with no notable surrogates appearing on her behalf and no paid media. Meanwhile, Johnson has been advertising in the state that he governed for two terms and Trump announced a TV ad buy here, although so far none have aired.

The good news for Clinton is that a little push would go a long way, given that her problem, according to Brian Sanderoff of Research and Polling, is with Hispanic voters.  Most of them are Democrats but too many are congregating around Johnson. He gets 31% Hispanic support to Hillary's 40 and Trump's 18.

We'd speculate--with history on our side--that there is a good deal of cultural resistance to the nation's first female (and Anglo) Dem presidential nominee. A similar problem confronted 2010 Dem gubernatorial nominee Diane Denish when a Hispanic woman by the name of Susana Martinez marched into the northern Spanish counties and went on to garner 40 percent of the Hispanic vote--a very muscular figure for a Republican and instrumental in her victory.

In the June primary this year and with Bernie Sanders breathing down her neck, Hillary dispatched Bill Clinton to the North for appearances in Santa Fe and Española to bring home the Hispanic vote. Still, her victory over Sanders was anemic, showing that the lack of enthusiasm for her also extended into liberal Anglo precincts.

In a head-to-head match in the Journal poll, Clinton smashes Trump by 10 points, 44 to 34, revealing again that Johnson's strength is the issue. Johnson's many embarrassing missteps on the campaign trail are old news around here where he was well-known as a shoot-from-the-hip Governor, not one prone to intellectual wrestling matches. That familiarity and the obvious disdain for the two major party candidates is sustaining him.

Can Johnson grow from here? History says this is very likely his peak number and he should start coming down as the actual voting nears. Many voters may be saying they plan to vote for him but peel off as the emotional intensity of the clash between Trump and Clinton grows. But if Johnson keeps a media buy in place and there is no negative campaigning against him, he may hang in that rarefied air for a third part candidate--double digits.

(Johnson received a mere 3.55% percent of the NM vote in the 2012 presidential contest).

One poll does not make a campaign and Nate Silver at 538 who compiles all of them, many of which never see the light of day around here, still pegs Clinton's chances of winning New Mexico at 83 percent. His model gives Johnson a 2-3% chance. But in a topsy-turvy year like this, why should Hillary take comfort in that? Much better to send Bill and the surrogates down for some comfort food--like enchiladas in Dona Ana and some burritos in Rio Arriba. Or even stop by herself for a combination plate in ABQ.


Sen. Sanchez (Journal)
Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez played a deft poker hand over the weekend, moving swiftly to win passage of a package of bills to solve the state's budget crisis and--without ambivalence--effectively killing the crime bills Gov. Martinez had insisted be part of the special session.

His coup de grâce was to have the Senate adjourn shortly after midnight Saturday, leaving the House alone at the capitol for the rest of the weekend and struggling to regain the upper hand.

The hodgepodge of solvency measures was an imperfect brew and even violated the Senate Dems previous pledge not to nick public education or the universities, but they emerged with overwhelming bipartisan Senate support.

It signaled to the Governor and majority House Republicans that the upper chamber was drifting away, just as it did deep into the second terms of Martinez's two predecessors who also pressed too hard too often and, like her, sported eroding approval ratings when doing so.

In the Senate's absence the R's continued to beat their breasts over the crime bills as they prepared to use them against the Democrats in the legislative campaigns. But the debate appeared feeble and perfunctory when juxtaposed as it was with the towering state budget crisis that Sanchez had quickly pushed to the session's. center. In the main, media coverage reflected that narrative.

The R's were most effective in nitpicking details of the Senate package, noting that it included a sizable cut to the public schools which on Sunday the House voted to reject. They also scoffed at a small cut the Senate approved for the Children, Youth and Families Department. It was pure role reversal, with Republicans offering a rare defense of education and social services funding and inflicting some pain on the Dems in the process.

Who's  to say whether the pummeling the Governor's political machine will give the Dems over killing the crime bills will produce casualties in November. However, crime tends to be a transitory issue in statewide politics, surfacing with outrage when an especially heinous crime captures attention (like the recent murder of 10 year old Victoria Martens).  On the other hand, the economy, jobs and funding essential government programs are evergreens--constant top of the mind issues.

The Democrats, led by Sanchez and with a nod from GOP Senate elders, this weekend whisked away the clouds of emotion and political toxins created by the "all crime all the time" agenda that had surrounded the Roundhouse. It was time to tend to those evergreens. And they did.


House Speaker Tripp
The gridlock is set to end Thursday when the Senate will have to return to Santa Fe to take up the House version of the budget bills. There is agreement to plug the $131 million hole left from the budget year that ended June 30 with cash from the tobacco settlement fund. As for the projected $458 million deficit for the current year, the Senate bills get the state close to resolving most of it, but it remains to be seen how much the House raises. They are rejecting the aforementioned public school cuts as well as a freeze on the corporate income tax reduction.

Whatever happens this week the lawmakers will be back in January for a 60 day session that will continue the budget nightmare. They will face what remains of this year's deficit and have to start crafting a budget for the year that begins July 1, 2017. The problem? The Senate bills rely largely on one time revenue sources to plug the current year's $458 million deficit. That money will not be available for future budgets.


Some Roundhouse veterans are frowning over the media continuing to say that the cost of each day of the special session is $50,000. That would be the case, they say, if the Senate had not adjourned. But with the Senators and their staffs gone until Thursday, the daily cost is much lower. . .

House Dems have some leverage. Here's how. In order for budget cuts to take effect right away, they have to come with an emergency clause approved by a two thirds vote in both the House and Senate. Otherwise, they don't take effect until 90 days after the Governor signs them. If they were to pass without the two thirds approval in either chamber, it would mean no spending cuts until January.

The fiscal year started July 1 and ends June 30 so lawmakers have already lost three months in which to reduce spending a whopping $458 million. House R's who are crafting their response to the Senate budget package will need the House Dems in order to get that emergency clause so the budget balancing can commence immediately upon the Guv's signature.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.

website design by limwebdesign