Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bailout Causes A Case Of Uncertain Congress Candidates, Plus: McCain Sets Next NM Visit, And: Fresh Senate Polling & Readers React To Big Economy News 

Everything about the lackluster campaigns for the ABQ and southern congressional seats is summed up in the way the candidates handled their responses to the $700 billion bailout bill. When the campaigns of Ed Tinsley and Darren White were first asked where they stood on the bailout, Tinsley's campaign gave a non-answer and White's campaign delayed commenting. That led us to reasonably conclude (and blog) that the two candidates were apparently for the bailout. But after putting their fingers to the wind, White and Tinsley told the ABQ Journal they would have voted against the bailout. And Democrat Martin Heinrich doesn't get off the hook. Even now, the paper reports, Martin isn't saying how he would have voted on legislation of a lifetime! (Southern Dem Harry Teague says he would have voted against the bailout.)

The tentativeness and uncertainty of the state's congressional candidates when dealing with spontaneous news stories has been the most revealing aspect of Campaign '08, not the ubiquitous and manipulative 30 second campaign commercials. These are the most heavily handled candidates we've seen in years. Because these hopefuls have such limited political experience, everyone is trying to avoid making the big mistake, while the voters try to figure out which of them can lead. That's why we need free wheeling TV debates, so we can determine the true characters of these novice political characters.


Even some of those with lengthy political experience seemed out of touch with the public rage and anger at the government. NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici drew the wrath of CNN's Lou Dobbs, among many others, for attaching a mental health parity bill to the historic financial bailout legislation the Senate approved Wednesday night. This, after Domenici warned of dire consequences if a bailout bill is not approved. Guess things aren't so dire after all if there's room for Pete's pet project during a national crisis. Now the House must debate that issue along with the critical economic measures. Pete did get a nod for this work--not from the conservatives, but from the liberal editorial pages of the New York Times. That's how upside down the politics of the bailout has become.

Even NM Dem Senator Bingaman, who voted for the bailout last night and is as thoughtful as they get, could not resist loading up the bailout bill with his pet cause--"clean energy" tax incentives. How that is related to the matter at hand loses the public, but that's the way the Congress does business. Its current approval rating is around 10 percent. The bill now goes to the House for a Friday vote. Senate hopefuls Udall and Pearce voted against the first bailout bill. They say they are undecided on this one.


Is Darren White's new TV ad using the father and mother of slain sheriff's deputy James McGrane over the top? KOB-TV's Stuart Dyson and I tackled that question. Here's the report.

Some observers were critical not just of White, but of McGrane's parents for lending themselves and their son's memory to a political campaign. The ad featuring the McGrane's is White's response to an attack ad Dem Martin Heinrich has run against the sheriff questioning his law enforcement credentials, but never mentions Deputy McGrane or the incident that took his life. The emotions of aggrieved parents can be understood, but when they come on the public stage their motives and statements are going to come under scrutiny. Such are the hot flames of La Politica in an election year October.


The calendar may have changed to a new month, but not the chances of Republican Steve Pearce to become the next NM US Senator. The latest SurveyUSA poll released Wednesday shows a huge lead for Dem Tom Udall. It's Udall 58 percent to Pearce's 39 and three percent undecided. That may exaggerate Udall's lead some, but clearly the economic crisis is benefiting the Democrats nationwide. Without that as a backdrop, Udall would likely be lower. But that's the reality Pearce has to deal with--somehow.


Maybe John McCain can lift the spirits of New Mexico R's. He'll be back here on or around October 10 for a visit that could take him around the state, report our reliable insiders. Will Pearce do what Bush did in October 2004 and do a swing through rural NM? Experts say McCain needs to close the gap with Obama here by bringing home votes in conservative southern NM. He is still not performing up to par in that region. That could help McCain with his statewide standing and also give a lift to GOP Southern congressional hopeful Ed Tinsley who is in danger of losing the US House seat to Dem Harry Teague.

Speaking of Teague, he's been stung by that TV spot from GOP rival Ed Tinsley that accuses him of being anti-gun. He came with this response. The tag line not so subtly hints at Tinsley's part-time Santa Fe residence. "Ed Tinsley. Not for us. Not one of us."

In Tinsley's attack ad, he cites a quote from the ABQ Journal that says Teague described himself as "not a gun fan" and that "it would be fine with me to turn my guns in.." to the government. As with the White ad in which the candidate does not address the specific charges, Teague's response also ignores the specifics, issuing a blanket denial and then going on to level new charges against Tinsley. Teague has said he owns several guns.


If we are going to have a slowdown in our state, NM lobbyist Dan Weaks thinks there's something we could do about it--right now.

Wouldn’t it be a good idea to fast track the $1 billion plus in public projects that are grinding through the government capital outlay process? Let's cut the red tape and set up a task force to get the stalled projects going...Streamline the approvals and put our money to work creating jobs instead of leaving huge amounts in low earning investments. And, if the state is having concerns selling bonds needed for the construction, why not offer a sale to New Mexicans and New Mexico institutions with reasonable rates of return? Use local institutions instead of the national jolly green incompetent giants. We may not have a recession; we may just have constipation...

And they are not "make work" jobs Weaks is talking about. The projects--community improvements statewide--have been authorized and budgeted, but we have dragged our feet and the money, as Weaks points out, is just sitting there. Sounds like an opportunity for all three major players--The Legislature, Big Bill and possible future Guv Lady Di. Will one of them grab it?


Reader Norman Shatkin blogs in from Lake Katrine, NY to chastise us for not supporting the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, and praising Rep. Steve Pearce and Udall for their votes against the measure:

What Pearce is doing is staking out an "anti-government" position because most people don't understand the issue and are appalled at the idea of the government bailing out Wall Street. It IS appalling, but the things we've witnessed in the past few months are unprecedented...People who understand the issues say that doing nothing is not an option. The world runs on credit, and credit really has seized up. (Treasury Secretary) Paulson's proposal, as modified by Congress, may or may not solve the problem, but Pearce's is not any better, and pretending that the situation isn't all that bad isn't going to change the fact...

Let's clarify, Norman. Some credit, not all, has seized up. See our blog on NM's independent banks that we ran Wednesday. We agree something needs to be done, but we applaud Pearce and Udall for voting down the initial plan. That gives us a chance to get something better and better thought out. In other words, fear-mongering, threats and panic is not the answer.


Reader John Gniady, reacting to our blog yesterday noting the decline in the stock of regional bank First State Bancorp, says we may have been too optimistic when we said there did not appear to be "cracks in the finances" of the regional bank. He notes the stock fell hard again Wednesday and bears watching. Hard to argue with that in this charged atmosphere. We will note that deposits of up to $100,000 in First State, as in most banks, are insured by the FDIC.


She's in. KOAT-TV and the ABQ Journal have relented and invited independent 
northern congressional hopeful Carol Miller to their Oct. 19 6 p.m. debate. KOAT initially excluded Miller, but she says her supporters convinced the station to reverse the decision. We were among those who urged the station to have not only Democrat Ben Ray Lujan and Republican Dan East on the televised forum, but also Miller. She collected 11,000 signatures to make the ballot. KOAT did the right thing. Now how about some debates in prime time?

The AP's Heather Clark is worried that the economic crisis is keeping Tom Udall and Steve Pearce away from the campaign trail on a full-time basis. Now, if only the voters felt that way....

This is the home of New Mexico politics. E-mail your news comments. Reporting from Albuquerque, NM, I'm Joe Monahan.

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