Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Day After The Day After: Still Counting Heather & Patsy As Other Dem Margins Grow, Plus: A Quip From Cargo 

How ironic. The all-paper ballot system that New Mexico Republicans fought tooth and nail may be their saving grace as the vote count nears an end in the battle for the ABQ Congressional seat between GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson and Democratic Attorney General Patricia Madrid. When all is said and done it will be hard paper evidence backing up the final vote count, not electronic data, which has become so mistrusted because of recent election mishaps.

The count, political pros say, continues to heavily favor Wilson who late Wednesday had a lead of 1395 votes. (Heather--102,376 to 100,981 for Madrid.) There are potentially some 8,000 votes left to be counted, but many are provisional ballots and will be disqualified. Even if all 8,000 were counted Madrid would need at least 59% of them to catch Wilson. Not likely. Her best chance to get back in the race would be the discovery of additional uncounted ballots, or a counting glitch heretofore unnoticed. Perhaps those long odds held at bay any recrimination on the day after the day after Election Day.


If Wilson goes on to take the prize, it will be worth less to her than in the past. For the first time she will be a "backbencher" or, as one baseball fan put it: "Heather will be riding the pine."

The new Democratic Congress will roll over her if she fights them on any plans to end the no-end-in-sight Iraq war, pushing her further into the corner of the unpopular President who she had to separate from during the campaign. She resisted any change in her position during the campaign, but a statement from conservative GOP Southern NM Congressman Steve Pearce may be a harbinger of where Heather is headed.

Pearce, an even more ardent backer of the war than Wilson, told me Election Night it is time to seek a "bipartisan" solution to the conflict which has united much of the nation in opposition. Pearce's new pragmatism, birthed in the Democratic landslide that has the Dems controlling both House and Senate, also extended to his relationship with the new powerhouses in the state's congressional delegation--Senator Bingaman who will replace NM Senator Domenici as Energy Committee chair--and northern NM Rep. Tom Udall who is in line for a subcommittee chairmanship after "riding the pine" since going to Capitol Hill in 98'.

"I have worked well with Jeff and Tom," Pearce told me. "I think our relationship will continue to be productive," said Pearce after seeing the results.


What happened with all those polls showing Madrid ahead of Wilson? Brian Sanderoff, whose ABQ Journal poll the Sunday before the election, showed Patsy with a 49-45 lead, made no excuses, saying he would like to have a "perfect record," but no one does. It was only Sanderoff's third miss in 20 years of Journal polling. His last poll did call all the other winners. The movement in the 1st CD race, explained Brian, came late and his poll concluded the Thursday before the election.

He also said Madrid's "communication skills," meaning the infamous brain freeze she had during the debate and which Wilson's campaign made hay of, may have played a pivotal part in converting some of Madrid's soft supporters to Heather's side on Election Day.

That reasoning was repeatedly cited to me. Another angle was the absentee ballots which Wilson's campaign said she carried with about 54%, despite an intensive counter absentee effort headed up by Big Bill's campaign and the Democratic Party.

"They just did not get enough of them in," said Democratic pundit Harry Pavlides, who believes the big Heather wins in rural Torrance county and the East Mountains were expected and were not the reason for Wilson's apparent win.

"If they had put more absentee votes in the bank, the debate issue would not have had as much impact and would have made up for any turnout shortfall among Madrid supporters on Election Day voting." Argued Pavlides.


Some R's were touting the percentages that their down-state ballot candidates lost by Tuesday, but by Wednesday night things were looking uglier. With votes trickling in from around the state, Mary Herrera was getting 54% of the vote, up from 53% in the secretary of state's race. Gary King added to his landslide for attorney general reaching the 57% mark. Dem auditor candidate Hector Balderas was coming in with 55% up a point from E Nite. Dem Treasurer candidate James Lewis was up to 60%. Jim Baca was the sole Dem down-ballot loser, but he trimmed the loss margin from 5 points to four in late returns. Big Bill took it higher too, now getting a huge and record-setting 69%. Dem Senator Bingaman buried his opponent even deeper in the late returns, wracking up an astounding 71% of the vote.


A wide cross section of Republicans are lamenting the party's decision to lay down on the top tier races, saying it threatens to even further marginalize the state's minority party. They have a point. Never have a GOP Governor and U.S. Senate candidate running together suffered such punishment. And the spin on the down-ballot races has now collapsed in the wake of the latest results showing historically normal Dem margins. A further blow was the failure of the GOP to pick up even one House seat. Party leaders were expecting to nab at least one.


Former GOP NM Governor Dave Cargo remains the king of the quip. When he learned that heavily rural and Republican Catron county was the only one that failed to give a majority to Big Bill, the ex-Guv exclaimed: "The vote was 36 steers to 31 bulls."

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