Monday, August 21, 2006

Madrid And Debates: Too Much Of a Good Thing? Plus: Pundits Start Predicting, Jeff Hit On Security, And: More Politics Of The Day 

You would think that a challenger to an incumbent U.S. House member would be itching for as many debates as possible. But think again when it comes to the Heather Wilson-Patricia Madrid duel. The Madrid camp is already lowering expectations for any televised confrontations, pointing out that the GOP's Wilson, seeking her fifth two year term, is a Rhodes Scholar and polished Air Force veteran who is quick on her feet and deeply schooled in the issues of the day.

Does that mean Madrid will not push to have as many TV face-offs as possible? Maybe. Some could read that as a sign of confidence, that she doesn't believe she needs as many one-on-one's to make her case in this troubling year for the R's. On the other hand, reluctance to debate could also be read as a sign that Madrid's camp fears a big mistake, or a boffo Heather performance that could take Madrid out of the race.

In 1994, Madrid was the Dem lieutenant governor candidate, paired with Governor Bruce King. She went to Las Vegas, NM and, to roughly paraphrase, warned of an "Anglo" invasion of the state. Bruce was not going to win that year, but the Madrid misfire is well-remembered. It did not happen in a debate setting, but showed she was capable of the big error.

That is not the case with Heather Wilson, at least not yet. In fact, many observers believe it was at the October 04' KOB-TV debate with Dem Richard Romero that Heather sealed her last re-election. That history and Patsy's own track record suggests treading cautiously when it comes to debates is well-advised.


As far as one liberal pundit is concerned, the Wilson-Madrid contest is already history, and Madrid has lost. ABQ Tribune editor Phill Casaus, reflecting concerns expressed here by some Dem strategists, says Madrid allowed Wilson to go on the offensive first, has failed to pin the Iraq war on her sufficiently and will likely lose. He thinks voter opinions have already hardened, and with early voting set to begin October 10th, is skeptical that throwing the kitchen sink at Heather in September and October will do the trick.

Phill (he spells it with two "L's") says if he is wrong he will eat his newspaper column, but actually he is not that far out on the limb. Heather is indeed the favorite. The ABQ district has never "swung." It has always been Republican. The counterpoint to Cassandra Casaus is that Madrid only need to be alive and breathing and await the coming tidal wave that other pundits claim will wash away all kinds of GOP incumbents, including Heather.

There is also the issue of the effectiveness of those ethics ads that Heather has been running since mid-July. We have no polling to asses their impact. But they do conjure up images of the "swift boat" strategy. Dem Prez candidate Kerry was skewered in August of 04' over his his Vietnam war record. He failed to respond and the rest is history. But Madrid has responded and mixed in some attacks of her own, just not enough for Phill and the Dems who are anxious to take the ABQ seat.

The no-end-in-sight-Iraq war, the cause of so much of the GOP's woes, has yet to be mentioned in a significant way by Madrid, but one suspects it will have to be a centerpiece issue, despite the early caution that seems to be coming from the Madrid campaign.

The first public poll (ABQ Journal, early Sept.) will tell much of the tale. Most everyone expects Heather to be ahead, but if Madrid is within shouting range--not back by more than four or five--Casaus might want to order up some Heinz ketchup to go with the newspaper entree he promises to devour if his prediction is misguided. Just in case.


I was a bit wary when Dem U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman told me over a year ago that he belived national security would be a key issue used against him in this year's campaign. He turned out to have the better instincts, as his GOP foe, Farmington urologist Allen McCulloch, has started zeroing in on this one to kick-start a campaign that has so far been running in place.

The security, or the "fear" issue, as the Dems like to call it, has broken for the R's since 9/11, but there are indications it hs lost a good deal of its punch for them. The attack on Bingaman is probably wise for McCulloch, but Jeff has done a good job in localizing his national race and it will take heavy negative campaigning to get him under the 60% mark Election Night.


This news item surely dosen't play into the re-election platform of Big Bill, but it cuts for him in another way. The number of illegal immigrants to NM is actually going down. That's good. The bad news? The number is going down because, according to one expert, our state has a "poor economy."...Maybe Dem Congressman Tom Udall can help out the economy. He departs for Cuba today on a three-day trade mission to negotiate prospective state agriculture contracts. Does Fidel like red or green?

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