Thursday, September 20, 2018

Debate Analysis: Pearce Shrinks From MLG Corruption Charge And She Takes The Win, Plus: Yvette Vs. Xochitl Has Pollsters Parting Ways  

It's not what Steve Pearce said, it was what he didn't say that cost him a win to Michelle Lujan Grisham. That was the consensus of our political experts avidly watching last night's first televised gubernatorial debate on Fox New Mexico.

(Complete video here.)

And what Pearce wouldn't say is what his primary TV spot says: That Democrat Lujan Grisham is a corrupt politician who will be an unethical leader and who will reward her cronies from the state treasury.

Veteran political analyst and attorney Greg Payne, a Dem, sums it up this way:

Pearce did not step up and press his negative attacks against Lujan Grisham over Delta Consulting. If you can't say it in a debate when your opponent is sitting across the table from you, no one is going to think your negative ad is credible--no matter how much money you spend on it.

A longtime GOP consultant said it appeared Pearce's handlers do not want to risk unwinding the positive, friendly image he built over the summer with TV ads that showcased a friendly uncle-like figure who gets along with just about everyone. His take:

Pearce didn't do badly on the issues. Dems watching would agree with Michelle and R's watching would go with Pearce and everyone runs to their corner. But he did not dent her on the character/corruption issue that could cause second guessing among her supporters. And with only 7 percent of the electorate undecided and him trailing 50-43 (in the ABQ Journal poll) he needs to dent her. By not taking that risk, he handed her the victory.

Many of those chiming in agree with this Pearce sympathizer on what went wrong:

MLG was the more articulate and nimble debater--a result of having gone through a contentious primary, which Pearce did not. . . She was prepared to use Pearce’s record in the Legislature and in Congress against him with specifics. She seemed prepared for everything Pearce said. Pearce wasn’t quite so nimble — perhaps because he hasn’t had to debate anyone in ages. He seemed to avoid attacking her on some of her most controversial votes or statements. He was too nice and didn’t try to throw her off her base. 


Another veteran politico, independent Steve Cabiedes, scored it for MLG with this reasoning:

There was no knockdown or knockout by Steve which he needed.


The tone of the debate was what caught the attention of the Journal's Dan Boyd:

In a remarkable change in tone, Michelle Lujan Grisham and Steve Pearce seized on their first televised debate Wednesday as a chance to sharply question each other and trade barbed attacks over whose vision is right for New Mexico.


There will be two more TV debates and this GOP Alligator has some advice on how Pearce can recover:

Next time, Pearce needs to aim more directly at her. If he’s going to charge her with corruption in his ads, he needs to say it in debates and forums and prosecute her on the spot. He also needs to challenge her policy positions, specifically on CYFD and crime. 

Furthermore, by using her own words against her, he should create a split between progressive Democrats and conservative Democrats--things that might cause progressives to stay home and conservative Dems to support him. Pearce’s number one goal: convince everyone that MLG is corrupt and unworthy of the office of governor. Second to this, he should also portray MLG as an unreasonable and far left liberal with no record of reaching across the aisle.


The political experts may have thought Pearce lost the debate because he failed to carry his corruption message about MLG to the public, but his campaign touted a flash poll that KRQE-TV conducted after the face-off that showed him winning 54% to 46% among over 700 respondents. So take that, Brian Sanderoff.


Back to our stable of analysts and this Dem Senior Alligator:

Lujan Grisham  needed to “stay the course” and she did. Pearce didn’t really do much to weaken Grisham with direct attacks, and probably could have done better to differentiate himself from his opponent.

Both talk like pedantic, Potomac River politicos reciting whatever is popular these days in DC. With Grisham 58 and Pearce now 70, they are both doing very little to capture the energetic, new style we see around the country in this year’s election. How about some new ideas? Some alternative takes on the topics du jour? A little inspiration, perhaps, please? Their unimaginative approach on the tremendous issues we face doesn’t bode well for what’s to come in Santa Fe. Someone needs to light a fire under these people.

That Gator wasn't the only one who thought the debate discussion flew right over the heads of most voters:

If the public was turned off or lost quick interest in this debate, one of the reasons is that neither of the candidates were speaking to real people. They were using the phrases and short-hand of the political, consulting and media class. I mean, what on earth was Lujan Grisham talking about when she kept going on about the CLIFF effect? And then there was Pearce wanting his hypothetical addict who also hypothetically stole his car to be on heroin, instead of meth. If someone steals your car, who cares what they're on? Neither one of these candidates seem to live in the same world the rest of us do.


Yvette & Xochitl
Things just keep getting more interesting in the race for the open southern congressional seat. Now the New York Times pollsters have weighed in and unlike the ABQ Journal, which had GOP State Rep. Yvette Herrell beating Democrat Xochitl Torres Small by a margin of 48 to 41, the Times survey has Torres small favored by one point--46-45. It was apparently enough for the noted Cook Political Report to move the race from "lean Republican to "toss up." That's after we moved it from "lean Republican" to likely Republican based on Herrell's strength in the survey of likely voters. Here's what the Times said:

NM-2, final: D+1, Torres-Small (D) 46, Herrell (R) 45 This is the first Democratic lead we've found in a district rated as "lean Republican" Torres-Small has a strong 33/17 fav rating, and she's running well ahead of the R+7 generic ballot here.

The difference in the polls is the turnout assumption. The Journal and pollster Brian Sanderoff do not see new Dem voters surging in the southern CD and the Times does. For example, the Times survey agrees with the Journal's that Herrell has a healthy lead among people calling themselves "certain voters" but says among voters who did not vote in both the '16 and '18 elections Torres Small has a lead of 15 points.

We think we may be ahead of the crowd and we're sticking by our "likely Republican" rating for the race because for decades turnout in Las Cruces--the home base of Torres Small--has been notoriously difficult to spike in a mid term elections. In the past we've seen Democratic efforts to take this seat turn into a head fake come October. That means we think the electorate will mostly be those certain voters. But we could be wrong--that because of Trump newbie voters this year will flood the polls. All of this makes for an interesting race--for now. We look forward to the debates.

P.S. The GOP National Congressional Committee has now joined the race with attack ads on Torres Small. The Dem Congressional Committee has been on the tube pounding Herrell.


One thing ABQ can agree on in these often politically polarized times is that we have a great airport--convenient to all, exceptionally clean, efficient, good parking and a terrific maintenance staff that keeps it humming. The news:

Albuquerque International Sunport came in eighth among medium-sized North America airports, notching up a few slots from last year, in a new passenger satisfaction study by J.D. Power. Based on a 1,000-point scale, J.D. Power ranked Albuquerque’s airport at 797 in a grouping of 21 medium-hub airports. Buffalo Niagara International Airport took the No. 1 spot in the segment, with a score of 814.

We're surprised it doesn't rank even higher.

And on that positive note and as the negative campaigns prepare to rain down, we thank you for joining us today.

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