Thursday, September 12, 2019

Trump Campaign Explains Long Shot NM Strategy As President Preps Monday Rio Rancho Visit; State Director And Staff To Be Hired; Woo Hispanics On Certain Issues; Ramp Up GOP Turnout; Find "New" Trump Voters 

We were all ready to blog our take on why President Trump is coming to Rio Rancho Monday, despite his slim chances of carrying this decidedly Dem state in 2020. But Time magazine did the job for us, interviewing campaign strategists who revealed why Trump is targeting NM. That targeting may turn out to be a short-term play as reality catches up with hope, but for now here's how it's playing out as described by Time:

When President Trump steps on stage for a campaign rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico even his own campaign staffers know he will be facing long odds. A Republican candidate for President hasn’t won the state since 2004. . . Trump himself lost the state by eight points to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and his disapproval rating among registered voters there is a crushing 57%, according to the Morning Consult voter tracking poll.

Nonetheless, Trump’s campaign is betting it can win in New Mexico. Flush with cash, the campaign is planning to announce a state director and additional ground staff there. . . a campaign official tells TIME. Internal campaign data has convinced Trump’s political advisors they can energize a slice of the state’s Hispanic voters to vote for Trump in 2020 by emphasizing Trump’s handling of the economy, border security and his trade confrontation with China. According to U.S. Census data, 49.1 percent of New Mexico’s residents identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino.

The move is part of a series of bets Trump is making to win states that went for Clinton in 2016. Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House advisor Jared Kushner says that voter data has convinced the reelection effort to fund robust field operations in a much larger number of states than in 2016. “I can see us very aggressively playing in 18 swing states,” Jared Kushner tells TIME. . . 

With more than $100 million in cash on hand, Trump’s campaign has the freedom to look for unorthodox opportunities. . .

Not everyone is buying it. Trump’s sagging job approval ratings suggest to many political observers that the map-broadening is a reflection of a search for a long shot way back to the White House. Liam Donovan, a Republican strategist, says that the Trump campaign is right to be trying to get more voters to show up and to branch out into new territory. “There are reasons to compete in all these places,” Donovan tells TIME. But, Donovan says, “he’s not going to win any of these places if he’s still at 43 approval in the RCP average,” referring to the average of Trump job approval polls published by RealClearPolitics. . .


Chris Carr
To do it, the Trump campaign is targeting states that have high rates of support for Trump among Republicans. The bet is that they can ramp up turnout and swamp the votes in traditional Democratic strongholds. That strategy hinges on developing accurate data to find would-be Trump voters and using the months-long head start over a still-unknown Democratic opponent to build a ground operation that ensures those voters are registered. . .

In the case of New Mexico. . . Hillary Clinton beat Trump by wide margins. But. . .voters cast tens of thousands of ballots for the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, votes the Trump campaign believes they can swing to the President in 2020. “We feel very optimistic about New Mexico,” Chris Carr, the political director for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, tells TIME. The Trump campaign believes it can make inroads registering new voters in New Mexico who show a propensity for liking Trump. In recent cycles, the GOP didn’t launch a major voter registration effort in New Mexico or build out a large ground staff, Carr says. . . 

The decision to target states like New Mexico is based on internal campaign data, says Bill Stepien, a senior political advisor to the campaign. “It costs a lot of money to invest in infrastructure and set up a headquarters. The campaign wouldn’t be considering doing that if New Mexico wasn’t a place where the numbers could add up,” Stepien said. In addition, data indicate that messages about blocking late-term abortions, Trump’s trade war with China, and building a border wall resonate with a slice of Hispanic voters in New Mexico, as well as other sunbelt states like Nevada and Arizona. . . 

“We are talking about some states that may not be in play a year from now, but the beauty of this year is that we can test, we can poll, we can see, you know, what takes root,” Stepien tells TIME. . .

. . . (Dem strategist Josh) Schwerin thinks it’s unlikely Trump will gather enough momentum to flip New Mexico. “If they made dramatic enough gains that they could play in New Mexico, it would be such a big blowout that we wouldn’t need to have these conversations. It’s just not on the radar right now,” says Schwerin.

He may be right. The Trump campaign is betting he’s not.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Northern Race: Plame's Catchy Ad Draws Scrutiny And Eric Serna Gets Plum Post As Son Marco Runs, Plus: Readers React To Latest Political Polls  

That catchy on line ad from northern Dem congressional candidate Valerie Plame is drawing national attention and not all of it's favorable. The WaPo fact checker sees a couple of problems:

The ad strongly suggests that Plame was an undercover operative in places such as Iran and North Korea, when that was not the case. (She was under diplomatic cover in Greece.) Plame, however, was operations chief at the Joint Task Force on Iraq of the Counterproliferation Division of the CIA’s clandestine operations directorate.

As to who leaked Plame's status as a CIA operative to the press, she says VP Cheney Chief of Staff Scooter Libby but the fact checker says:

But was Scooter Libby, Vice President Richard B. Cheney’s chief of staff, the source of the leak? Libby was convicted of perjury and lying to the FBI during its investigation, but he was not charged with leaking Plame’s name.

The ad earned Plame three "Pinocchio's" which for the WaPo means "it had significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions. This gets into the realm of "mostly false."

Perhaps, but the fact check that goes on and on (for 1,800 words) seems overwrought and the sins in the ad don't seem commensurate with the punishment. Plame did not serve in overseas hot spots like Iran which the ad implies and whether Scooter Libby was a leaker of her name or not (Richard Armitage admitted he did) Libby was caught lying about the Plame affair. For all that we'd give her five lashes with the wet noodle and drop the Pinocchio's.


Also in the northern race, a bit of an eyebrow raiser. MLG has appointed longtime politico Eric Serna, father of Santa Fe County District Attorney and congressional hopeful Marco Serna, to the state fair commission which he will now serve as chairman.

The senior Serna lost the northern congressional seat in 1996 to Republican Bill Redmond, the only Dem ever to lose the heavy D district. Two years later Tom Udall took it back for the D's. Redmond campaigned on Serna's ethics issues which are well-remembered by many northern voters. Whether that will impact his son's campaign remains to be seen.

For now the junior Serna is grappling with criticism of how he is handling his DA job. As for MLG appointing Eric Serna to the fair commission, who said women can't be part of the Old Boys Club?


MLG scored a 58 percent approval rating in a NEA-NM poll of 500 adults conducted in late August and that we covered Tuesday. State government retiree John Rey disagrees with the majority:

I bet my pension check that if you polled PERA members on MLG the results would be far less positive. I spoke to her at a rally before the election and she not only told me but the crowd that PERA cost of living raises would not be touched. New boss same as the old boss!

The Governor's task force on pension reform has proposed cutting back on the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for retirees in order to strengthen PERA's financial standing. The Governor has not publicly commented on that proposal which is being called "preliminary." The task force plans will be reviewed by the legislature.

Reader David Meurer writes of the polls:

Joe, Traditional landlines continue to be cancelled at a massive rate. I gave up my landline years ago, as have the majority of homeowners. And with my various cell phones, I never answer the call unless I  know the caller ID. Robocalls have created that reaction.

My point is (and the pollsters will hate this question), are polls irrelevant (or woefully skewed) due to these massive handicaps? I am a boomer, but the millennials and digital natives are even more inclined this same way. Maybe the usual methods have gone the way of old steam locomotives. Fun to ride for amusement, but not a serious way to get between two points.

Thanks, David. Even the new fangled on line polls have serious issues.

Finally, the tired cliche uttered endlessly by politicians for decades may finally ring true: "The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day."

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Latest Polling On MLG And Keller And Valerie Plame Hits With Racy Video Ad 

A couple of polls to blog about today, including one of Mayor Keller who is feeling the earth move under his feet in the wake of BernCo Sheriff Manny Gonzales refusing to rule out a challenge to fellow Dem Keller when the 2021 election rolls around.

Soon after that mini-bombshell exploded the Kellerites were circulating a poll and arguing that Gonzales's possible challenge is doomed. The on line survey conducted in late July by DC pollster Stepehen Clermont had Keller garnering a 57 percent "good or excellent" approval rating with 37 percent not approving. Also, 61 percent of the respondents had a favorable view of Keller. Only 36 percent had an unfavorable opinion.

That's good for the incumbent but nothing to rest on. The numbers can change in a flash. especially when the crime wave is rolling on and now with Gonzales like a fire eating dragon breathing down the Mayor's neck. The political community is going to want to see a head-to-head poll between the two before jumping to any conclusions.

Meanwhile supporters of Governor Lujan Grisham are taking some solace from another on line poll in the wake of her poor polling performance in the Morning Consult on line survey released in April.

Both polls have issues. The MC one seems to undercount Democrats and the latest one--conducted by the GQR firm in DC for the NEA-NM--surveyed only "adults" not registered and/or likely voters, although respondents were asked whether they were registered and their party affiliation.

It has MLG's job approval rating among the 500 adults asked in late August at 58 percent with 42 percent disapproving. The MC poll in April had her getting only 44 percent job approval and 43 percent disapproving.

We have a polling problem. It is very expensive to conduct a survey of registered voters using live callers to landlines and cellphones. That is generally agreed to be the most accurate method. There have been no such public polls of the Governor or Mayor since they took office. There will be when both draw closer to their re-election bids.

The NEA-NM poll on MLG is here. The Clermont poll on Keller is here.

For what its worth, the GQR survey also asked about education and found that 57 percent of the respondents "strongly support" the teacher pay raises pushed through the Legislature by MLG.


Northern Dem congressional hopeful Valerie Plame comes with a catchy 81 second on line ad that has her showing daredevil driving skills she says she picked up while working for the CIA.

The ad has her in full command of a sporty Chevy Camaro as she maneuvers it backwards at high speeds as well as a variety of circles. She says the point is. .  .

Now I'm running for Congress because we are going backwards on national security, healthcare and women's rights. We need to turn our country around. . . 

While Plame's driving antics are eye catching, the money line she recites in the ad goes to one of her chief vulnerabilities--her relationship with the Jewish community. She says:

I come from Ukrainian Jewish immigrants.

In 2017 Plame tweeted a link to an article headlined “America's Jews are driving America's wars.” Since then she has battled charges of anti-semiticism. One of her nine opponents is likely to use that against her so the citing of her own Jewish background is her trying to get ahead of the curve.

Plame's ad won't air on regular television but it could help her raise money nationally. In the ad she details how she was illegally outed as a CIA agent during the Bush administration and how Trump pardoned the perpetrator. That case is getting long in the tooth but will still ring bells among hardcore Dems. Her video already had well over a quarter million views on YouTube on the day of release,

Plame would love nothing more than to close this race out early with her national appeal and money, but that's unlikely. Media in the race will be critical, but not necessarily decisive. For example, the deep local roots and national support women's group are giving to Teresa Leger Fernandez is a big hurdle for a newcomer like Plame to jump. Still, her online ad may have her driving backwards and in circles but it shows her campaign is headed in the right direction.

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Monday, September 09, 2019

The Sheriff Calls Out The Mayor; Gonzales Upends City Politics With Crime Raid In SE Heights And Refuses To Rule Out Mayoral Run 

Sheriff Gonzales
Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales is calling out ABQ Mayor Tim Keller and if the Sheriff sticks to his guns the city could be in for one heckuva political spectacle.

It started last week when Gonzales planted his flag deeply in Keller's political base--the crime-ridden SE Heights. In an unprecedented move for a county sheriff, Gonzales released his deputies to fight the crime battle in the battered area without the explicit support of the Mayor or his police chief. But he was invited to come in by the people who count--those who live there. By week's end Gonzales was tallying up the illicit booty his deputies had collected and boasting of it on TV.

That led us to post on Facebook the recent scuttlebutt that Gonzales, a Democrat like Keller, may be prepping a 2021 run for Mayor. (He is limited to two terms as Sheriff). Then in a follow-up report Gonzales confirmed that he is indeed mulling over a mayoral run. That sent the Kellerites back on their heels as they assessed the impact of this Alpha male move that stunned them as well as the political community.

Then there was the Sheriff's hiring of veteran Dem consultant James Hallinan to provide "communication services" to the department for $24K a year. Hallinan says he is out of the political consulting business but it's an open secret that his relationship with the Keller Dems is on the rocks, furthering the Manny for Mayor rumor mill.

Maybe it was a coincidence or maybe not, but the day after Gonzales raided the SE Keller fired up a new Twitter feed for Spanish speaking citizens. That sent the Alligators into a frenzy, predicting that the Gonzales Movida could send the first term Mayor to the political center to choke off Gonzales' oxygen.

But Gonzales has unlimited air to breathe from the never-ending crime wave that is sapping the lifeblood from the city. The smidgen of good news for Keller is that it would be highly unusual for the electorate to reject him in favor of a law enforcement official but it has to be noted that these are unprecedented times. Also, Keller is not up for election until November 2021. He still has two years to make more noticeable headway against the epidemic.


Mayor Keller
Keller says he has made a difference and regularly releases statistics backing his case. But beleaguered citizens continue to push back hard, saying they don't see a difference. Many maintain that much crime is now going unreported because citizens have given up. That, they claim, skews the stats in favor of City Hall.

Some readers also complain that APD collects "information reports" for many auto break-ins and the like so victims can collect their insurance but does not report the incidents as crimes that are included in the FBI's Uniform Crime Report.

Then there's the growing impatience with an APD that says its hands are tied by the Justice Department consent decree governing the agency, but continues to clock overtime that would make a glutton proud.

Gonzales showed Wednesday just how "handcuffed" APD is when he announced 51 felony and 25 misdemeanor arrests, the seizure of 45 pounds of meth, 3 pounds of heroin and 24 firearms in the SE Heights area renamed the "International District" from its old moniker of War Zone." (You be the judge on which one fits best.)

This latest Gonzales operation (and a previous one authorized by the Governor) have begun to redefine the narrative from one that says APD is doing all it can under the circumstances to. . .

"If the Sheriff can get results why can't APD and does this mean all those new cops won't really make a difference?"

APD has received a massive budget increase financed by higher taxes to pay cops more and hire more of them. But Keller was left with a department decimated by previous Mayor RJ Berry. He has said it will take years to straighten it out. But in politics you are rarely given years, especially as the trauma created by all the crime takes a devastating toll on thousands of victims.

Gonzales obviously sees an opening. He and his supporters believe the public is receptive to a more populist approach that puts getting tougher on crime at the top of the priority list and moves progressive items like banning plastic bags to the bottom.


With Gonzales teasing a mayoral run the progressive movement in city politics--while here to stay--appears to have peaked and hit its ceiling. 

The Sheriff has been elected twice, is a native Hispanic, a Marine Corp veteran and is tough as nails. He even refuses to allow his deputies to wear lapel cameras despite withering criticism. His natural base is Hispanic Democrats, Independents and many Republicans, if they choose not to field a candidate of their own. All of this is enough to send shivers up the spines of Keller and his well-paid circle at City Hall.

Regardless of the politics, Gonzales, who has had his own troubles steering his department, may be doing ABQ a favor by arguing that we can do better, that the incremental progress on crime that the city is being asked to settle for is not enough. Is it Manny's MAGA moment--Make ABQ Great Again? Stay tuned.

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