Thursday, August 07, 2008

Sixty Days Before First Votes Cast: Where Does NM Prez Race Stand? Plus: Conspiracy Buffs Have Heather Returning, And: Even More Fresh Campaign Stuff 

With just sixty days before absentee voting gets underway, the NM presidential race seems up in the air. National pundits are scoring the state "lean Obama" but not with much confidence. Obama has opened 17 field offices here and insiders say they would not be surprised to see more. Both national parties are spending heavy, with the Dems estimated to have already pumped in $500,000 and the R's almost an equal amount.

(The National Journal reports McCain's campaign spent $25K on NM TV for the week of 7/29-8/4. From 8/5-8/11, the Republican is spending nothing.)

Reports from the heavily Democratic and Hispanic north spell some trouble for Obama, with politicos saying the race issue looms large. Obama backers here want him to tamp it down by traveling to one of the Spanish counties such as San Miguel. They also worry about churches in the north hammering the Dem contender on abortion and gay marriage as they did John Kerry who lost the state to Bush in 2004. Obama narrowly won the north but lost the state to Hillary Clinton in the February Dem prez caucus. There is talk this week of her trying to make a comeback at the Denver convention. One group still pushing her is called "Party Unity My Ass."

We asked veteran pollster and Dem consultant Harry Pavlides to give us a prep sheet for the presidential battle to come.

McCain should carry the southern congressional district big, by 20,000 to 30,000 votes. The north belongs to Obama but there is an issue over his margin. If Hispanics are not turned on to him, it will shrink. The race will be decided by blue-collar Democrats and Independents. The key swing areas where these voters live are: the ABQ NE Heights east of San Mateo to Eubank; on the west side of ABQ in the Taylor Ranch area; the city of Rio Rancho and the Bellamah district in south central Las Cruces in Dona Ana County.

Pavlides said voter turnout should follow the historical pattern, with the most votes as a percentage of those registered being cast in the ABQ metro, followed by the north and then the south.

He agrees if the election were held today, Obama would win. However, he believes McCain is not out of the race, not by a long shot.

McCain will not have the field organization that Obama has, but his vote is more likely to go to the polls without prodding. Also, some "old guard" Dems in rural NM e-mail us about their resentment of the newcomers who have flooded into the state for Obama. Ruffled feathers will need to be smoothed.

Obama's campaign here seems to hinge on getting new and younger voters to the polls. The current composition of NM's electorate may be too conservative for Obama. Even a Dem who ran as a moderate--Al Gore--barely managed a victory here. Maybe Obama will break out once voters get to know him better, but as things stand today, McCain, with appeal to veterans, Hispanics and conservative Dems, appears poised to at least make it to the late rounds.


It's all field all the time for Obama. The man heading up the organization here is Brent Messenger who did similar work for the candidate in California and Nevada. Here's a video of Messenger explaining himself and his politics.


The first paid electronic media of the fall campaign mentioning ABQ Dem congressional candidate Martin Heinrich is negative. The conservative group "Freedoms Watch" is on the radio airwaves, hitting Heinrich on oil drilling. The group is heavily funded by Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson and is targeting Dem candidates around the country. Heinrich recently said he is not against offshore drilling if it can be done in an enviornmentally safe way, even though many of the groups who support him are against it. In response to the radio bashing, Heinrich's campaign said: "The ad is paid for by fat cat Republican donors with close ties to George Bush. They want Darren White in Congress because they know he supports a radical big oil agenda that has resulted in record profits for oil companies."

You can hear the anti-Heinrich ad on the Huffington Post blog where you will also see speculation about Darren getting out of the ABQ congressional race and Heather Wilson coming back in! The rumor mill has been having fun with this one for the past week--especially because White has been sidelined with a back injury--but it was all below the radar--until now. Adding to the delight of the conspiracy theorists is the scheduled GOP State Central Committee meeting August 14 where, theoretically, the switch could be made. Is this plausible? Whatever. But it is adding spice to the campaign during these languid August days. By the way, conspiracy junkies, the last day for a candidate to withdraw from the general election is September 3. Darren has scheduled a news conference for today, where he will discuss his bad back, among other matters, including health care.


There was no ganging up on frontrunner Ben Ray Lujan at the first appearance by all four contenders for the northern congressional seat. Dem Lujan, R Dan East and independent candidates Carol Miller and Ron Simmons tackled the energy issue, but not each other. The northern campaign is Lujan's to lose. R East is showing some spunk, pushing for more joint appearances with Lujan. He could help drive some R turnout in the Four Corners and east side. But this deal is nothing like 1997 when Dem Eric Serna was defeated in a special US House election by Republican Bill Redmond with then Green Party member Carol Miller playing spoiler. It would serve Lujan well to show up for as many of the joint appearances as possible. Limiting himself only gives his foes an opening, while showing up shows he has the confidence to be the congressman.


The major campaigns haven't shown much imagination yet in garnering voter attention during the slow summer months. But we think we spotted an exception Wednesday. State Dems announced:

"Santa Fe Mayor David Coss will present Ed Tinsley, candidate for the 2nd Congressional District, with a Santa Fe Resident of the Month Award...Tinsley will be recognized for his outstanding service to Santa Fe, including his tenure on the board of the Valle National Park...

Tinsley, a Lincoln County rancher and owner of the K-Bobs restaurant chain, has been chided for having a second home in the swank Las Campanas neighborhood of Santa Fe, and for spending a considerable time there instead of in the southern district. He faces Dem Harry Teague who hopes the carpetbagger issue will help keep his hopes alive in the conservative district. Ed's campaign calls the Santa Fe ceremony "a silly stunt." But it did get some attention, and that's the measuring stick.


We mentioned several foundations Wednesday that political insiders point to as possible source of funds for the nonprofit groups spending big money in NM legislative races this year. But a spokesman for Lt. Gov. Diane Denish says the Daniels Fund, which was mentioned as a possibility and on whose board Denish sits, is not one of them. "No money from Daniels has gone to the nonprofit groups. In fact, several prominent Republicans sit on its board." Said the spokesman.

The non-profits are aligned with the left-wing of the Democratic Party. The explosion of nonprofits on the state political scene has generated heat. The reporting requirements for the groups leave the press and public in the dark as to who is donating to them until well after the election. And contributions are tax deductible. The nonprofits could lose that status if it is shown they are pursuing a partisan political agenda.


KRQE remains the 10 p.m. news leader in the big ABQ market as we prepare for the onslaught of the paid political. The CBS affiliate scored a 7.7 rating in July. KOAT was second with 6.7 and KOB was close behind with a 6.6 rating. The rating is the percentage of households with TV that are tuned in. For example, KRQE's 7.7 rating means of all the homes owning TV sets, 7.7% of them are tuned to the station's 10 p.m. news.

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