Tuesday, June 06, 2017

The Spring Of Our Discontent: Poll Shows A Record Number Of NewMexicans Believe State Is On The Wrong Track; How It Happened, Plus:Polling Pearce Versus Grisham As '18 Guv Dance Continues 

"Before this period of history in New Mexico is resolved you are going to see and hear things you thought were simply not possible."

We've said that many times since the Great Recession took hold here in 2009 and has yet to release its grip. Unfortunately, we're not done saying it. Today's entry into the previously thought impossible is how New Mexicans feel about the direction of their state.

In a May 20-23 poll of 605 registered voters an off-the-charts 73 percent of respondents say the state is on "the wrong track." Correct us if we're wrong, but we believe that is the highest level of New Mexican discontent ever recorded in a public survey.

The Tarrance Group, a firm that works for GOP candidates and organizations, stated in a poll commissioned by GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce:

The vast majority of New Mexico voters are not happy with the direction in which the state is headed. Only 15% say things are going in the right direction, while fully 73% of New Mexico voters say things are going down the wrong track. This is not a lightly held opinion, as a 54% majority feel strongly that things are “wrong track.

The existential crisis that is New Mexico today demands powerful and courageous leadership if the state is to resume the role it once relished and prospered under:

A growing Sunbelt state, albeit with long term economic and social problems, but one that was fighting to keep its head above water and more often than not succeeding.

Veteran TV journalist, longtime political observer and Taos native Rodger Beimer rightly points out that the state's descent into economic darkness has been hastened by global events beyond our control---trade, technology etc. But he joins the chorus in singing a lament over the apathetic, ineffectual and weak leadership at the state and local levels during this prolonged period of crisis (and that includes both parties).

The Great Recession here was followed by what might be called the Great Withdrawal. Instead of fighting to save the state, many left for nearby greener pastures and many who stayed looked inward at their own personal standing as the economic storm raged. And it became a perfect storm for the decline when the state opted for laissez-faire leadership in Santa Fe and ABQ.

Those who have stayed around have witnessed child well-being and poverty rankings become the worst or near worst in the nation; the state suffering a downgrade to its bonding status; the fleeing of the educated millennials; a historic low in workforce participation; employers unable to find skilled and drug-free employees; the highest unemployment rate in the nation and a tidal wave of lawlessness in the state and its largest city fueled by a ferocious drug epidemic and feckless leadership. Thousands of New Mexicans have been dumped at the side of the road by this economic calamity, as have thousands more in places like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For many it will be the end of the road and a life buffered by Medicaid and food stamps.

The great, historic mistake New Mexico made in this century was the pivot to austerity politics when the circumstances demanded stimulus and massive investment in human capital. So here we sit with the mess we made and now 73 percent of the state fully recognizing that we took a very wrong turn. But recognizing it and doing something about it are concepts still far apart in the minds of voters and have not been connected for them by our political leadership.

New Mexico has a Grand Canyon to dig out of, but before the digging can commence the descent must be halted. That is a tall order even if we are someday blessed with dynamic leadership. To once again paraphrase the late great singer Marty Robbins, "Lord, this time you gave us a mountain, a mountain we may never climb. It isn't a hill any longer. You gave us a mountain this time."

Before this period finally ends, those lyrics may become the official state song.


That same poll from the Tarrance Group measuring the right track/wrong track in the state also conducted a hypothetical match-up for the '18 gubernatorial race between GOP US Rep. Steve Pearce and ABQ Dem US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. She's already announced her candidacy for her party's nomination and Pearce is thinking about doing the same. The survey showed Grisham leading Pearce 47% to 43% with 10% undecided.

The Pearce forces took heart from the survey, boasting they were only four points behind But other operatives looked at it quite differently, pointing out that Pearce has been on the state scene for over twenty years and can't break out of territory that represents the base Republican vote. Meanwhile, they pointed out that Grisham, who is not yet know statewide is just a few points from 50% in the head-to-head match.

Some R's fear a debacle if the very conservative Pearce is their nominee, citing his landslide defeat in 2008 by Senator Tom Udall. Pearce then managed only 39% of the statewide vote. But a debacle may be awaiting the party even if Pearce doesn't run because they have no other candidates of stature in their bullpen. Pat Lyons, Aubrey Dunnpp or anyone else flying under the R banner will face a cycle with the wind blowing in their face.


Lujan Grisham
That Democratic Guv nomination is becoming more valuable by the day. But with a full year to go before the primary some Dems are getting antsy over the spin that the nomination is closed out and that Grisham is the default winner. That doesn't sit well with ABQ businessman Jeff Apodaca who is also vying for the Dem nod and, of course, it rankles the political junkies who always ache for a spirited debate.

Given that background, it was no wonder that a mini-frenzy developed in La Politica when last week we mentioned that businessman and foreign affairs expert Joshua Cooper Ramo made some phone calls to top Dem politicos wondering aloud about running for Governor. A Dem operative reports he lives in NYC but also has a place in Santa Fe and is registered to vote there.

He is not running, a family member and numerous others near his circle assure us. But the stir caused by the possible entry of Ramo, a native of the ABQ metro with well-known parents and who has had a star-studded career back East, reminded everyone that we have a long way to go and that a Coronation Day for Rep. Grisham is still a bit premature.

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