Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Inside Pearce's TV Play, Plus: Other Hopefuls Prep Tube Debuts, And: All Senate Debates Set; Who Do They Favor? Also: Heather Back In the Headlines 

No one is going to accuse GOP US Senate nominee Steve Pearce of being a spendthrift. Working to stretch his campaign dollars as far as possible, Pearce has taken the unusual step of cutting three, 15 second TV spots. Reviews of the ads have been wide ranging, with some calling them exceptionally clever and others calling them slightly weird. Here's a sample.

Media insiders say the point of the 15 second ads is to increase the volume and frequency of Pearce's message without spending as much as Dem contender Tom Udall who has raised much more cash than Pearce. The Pearce ads air closely together, with two ads airing within two or three minutes of each other during the same commercial break.

If that's the clever part, what's the "weird" part? Maybe the way Pearce drones: "How did you vote, Tom?" He looks like a prosecutor out of a Kafka novel. Of course, that means they may work. One wag wondered why Steve has to be so financially clever when he is worth gazillions of dollars earned in the Hobbs oil patch. Why not just write a check for a cool million and get this game going full-steam? Of course, it's always easy to spend another guy's dough. The other two Pearce ads are here and here.


More now on the Darren White TV story. Our insiders tell us the first bio spot for White will hit Friday, but it's being paid for not by the White campaign, but by the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee (RCCC). That's interesting because it speaks to the financial standing of White. The Democratic committee has booked $1.2 million on behalf of Dem contender Martin Heinrich. We don't have the total for the Republican committee, but that they are coming for White is no surprise. White's campaign continues to hunt for money, sending out an email in which he says "we have the wind in our face." Heinrich came out ahead in a recent SurveyUSA poll. Both campaigns have been taking hits in the political community for being way too mellow. It seems they spend a lot of time raising money, but not much time raising hell. Is that how they will act if elected to the Congress? Let's hope not.


This is not NM related, but this ad for the US Senate race in Minnesota is so well-produced, we thought it would be of interest. Take a look.


We've all been waiting for southern GOP congressional hopeful Ed Tinsley to get on the air. After all, Dem Harry Teague has been up for a couple of weeks. TV insiders report Tinsley had booked TV time, but then cancelled. He is now back and expected to come next Tuesday with his first wave. Meantime, the Politico profiled Teague and the southern NM race for its national readership. We told the Politico's Erika Lovely that oilman Teague is a "dangerous" candidate for the R's. That's because he has the ability to appeal to a conservative electorate as demonstrated by his two elections as a Lea County commissioner. The other thing about Teague is that he really, really wants the job. Voters like that. Tinsley is hungry for it, too. Either one of these fellas would make sure New Mexico is not in the shadows in the US House. This has all the makings of a close race.


Reaction to our report that Caroline Kennedy will campaign September 26 and 27 for Obama in Northern NM, but her events are all high-dollar, irritating some who think it smacks of elitism and shuts out ordinary people from seeing the presidential daughter. A high-level Dem says there is a reason why Caroline will be sequestered among the well-to-do:

The reason Caroline is only doing fundraisers is because she only does fundraisers. She doesn’t do big crowd stuff.

How about a low-budget, small crowd fund-raiser then?

Too big for her—she’s shy, doesn’t like a crowd." Responds the Dem.

She may not like crowds, but Caroline did face a big one when she and her Uncle Teddy endorsed Obama earlier this year. An e-mailer sympathetic to McCain weighed in with this:

The prices for the Caroline Kennedy events would make even Republicans blanch. I think event sponsors are feeding their egos far more than they are trying to help a campaign. The passage of time and departure of the faithful to their final reward has worn thin the Kennedy mystique in Northern New Mexico.The women of Northern New Mexico descend from women like Sarah Palin not Caroline Kennedy.

Oh yeah, this campaign is getting hotter than a stolen tamale. Look, Paul Bardacke, the former NM attorney general who is hosting a Santa Fe dinner for Caroline at $10,000 a pop, is a great Dem and even a jolly good fellow. But Obama's decision not to take public financing puts him under the gun to raise big private money from the Caroline visit. Rank and file Dems don't like the big bucks stuff, and now it threatens to hurt her visit here. Liberal Santa Fe Anglos are in the bag for Obama. Hispanic Dems are not. Is there someone from here at the local Obama headquarters taking notes?


How close was ABQ GOP US Rep. Heather Wilson's relationship with an associate of notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff? That question arose anew this week with the indictment of Abramoff colleague Kevin Ring. Communications between Wilson's office and Ring are noted by prosecutors, and the subject of this report from the liberal Talking Points Memo blog. At first, Wilson refused comment, but then released a statement saying the Justice Department has not contacted her regarding Ring. She said Ring did give her a $1,000 campaign contribution in 2003. Ring has pleaded not guilty to a 10 count indictment.

Wilson is not seeking re-election, having given up her House seat and losing the GOP Senate primary to Steve Pearce. However, she has emerged as a prime spokeswoman for McCain on national cable TV news programs. If McCain wins and taps Heather for a job, the Abramoff connection could again be explored.


Can we go back to Steve Pearce for a minute? At dinner with some of the gang Tuesday night, comments were made about how Pearce was squeezed out of a speaking spot at the Saturday McCain-Palin ABQ rally. Pearce only got to say an opening prayer. Meanwhile, Heather Wilson, who is leaving office in January, got a prime speaking slot before the crowd of over 6,000. That led to this incisive analysis about the forthcoming debates between Pearce and Dem Tom Udall.

"Steve doesn't have to worry about the debates. He'll open them with a prayer and then Heather will come in and take on Udall."

Well, that's how an Alligator snaps. Now, on to our exclusive debate analysis....


Let's get into the US Senate debate business so we know where we stand. First, KOB-TV announced Tuesday that NBC's "Meet the Press" will feature Steve Pearce and Tom Udall in a debate Sunday, October 12. It will be the first televised confrontation between the pair, unless something impromptu happens before then. This program will not be widely seen because it airs at 9 a.m. NM time. However, excerpts will be seen widely on TV news broadcasts, the blogs and the Monday papers. It is a big deal because it is the first debate and a mistake could be fatal. Just ask Bill Richardson whose Prez campaign effectively ended on the program. Tom Brokaw will host the debate. The late Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert was a debate specialist. Brokaw may be a bit easier for the candidates to get around, but not much. Like Russert, he knows all the tricks. MTP runs for an hour. In 2006, the program's senate debates lasted about 35 minutes each.

That's the MTP deal. Now, on to the first NM-based debate. That will also air on KOB-TV. It will be Wednesday, October 15. But we have a problem. There is a presidential debate scheduled for that night at 7 p.m. That 90 minute debate will air before the US Senate face-off, which means the audience will shrink because few people want to watch that many hours of debates. Also, it will compete for local headlines with the Prez debate aftermath. It will still be an important moment, but if a big error is made, the number of viewers witnessing it as it happens will be less than it would have been had there been no prez face-off the same night.

Finally, there is the October 18 KRQE debate and the October 26 KOAT debate. The 18th falls on a Saturday. That is the lowest viewed night in TV. The debate occurs on the first day of early in-person voting. It will come only three days after the 15th debate, so if anyone makes a big error then, they will have a chance to recover quickly. The 26th falls on a Sunday. We assume the KOAT face-off will be in prime-time, but we haven't confirmed that. Assuming it is, this will be a clean shot for both candidates with better than a week to go before the Election Day voting. Still, thousands of votes will have already been cast by the time this debate airs, lessening the impact of any major error.

Overall, this schedule tilts in favor of Udall who is the frontrunner and has the most to lose in these debates. But if either candidate has a defining moment, it will be able to break through some of the complicated clutter surrounding these debates for the state's first open US Senate seat since the '72 election.


Leave it to the New Mexican's Steve Terrell to know how to have fun at an over scripted, no-news-is-good-news political convention. Here he is living the high life, replete with a fancy stogy he probably cribbed from Big Bill. Truly a non-partisan reporter, Terrell allowed Amanda Cooper, campaign manager for Dem Senate nominee Tom Udall, to take the photo. Word has it that she then attempted to blackmail the New Mexican editors into favorable coverage for her candidate in exchange for destroying the pic. The editors demurred, saying their files are already full of compromising pictures of Terrrell sent in by candidates throughout the state. Party on, Steve. Someone has to....And homeless staffers from the defunct ABQ Tribune continue to find ports in the political storm. Joel Gay, a veteran editor with the warmly remembered afternoon daily, is the latest to land.

Reporting and blogging from Albuquerque, NM, I'm Joe Monahan. E-mail your news and comments.

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