Tuesday, October 28, 2008

T Minus 7 Days: Tsunami Warning Issued; NM R's Head To Lifeboats, Plus: Exclusive Poll; Mayor Marty's Numbers, And: Lobo-Aggie Battle On Obama Crowd 

A Tsunami warning has been issued and the captain has given the order. It's every man for himself. With just one week before Election Day, experts across the board say a repudiation of historic proportions of the Bush presidency and the New Mexico Republican Party seems unavoidable. Public and private polling here reveals the tsunami wave that is already splashing onto the early voting. It will now be a major upset if any Republican is elected to the United States Congress from this state in 2008. That would mean one party control of the state's five member D.C. delegation for the first time since the state added its third US House seat in 1983.

The US Senate seat which Pete Domenici reclaimed for the R's in 1972 is now days away from switching back to the D's. Insider polling indicates Tom Udall will lead the ticket, giving the Democrats New Mexico's two US Senate seats for the first time since 1972 when they were held by Clinton Anderson and Joe Montoya.

The NM state Senate, with a make-up today of 24 Democrats and 18 Republicans, is now forecast to go even more blue, with Democratic and independent polling showing GOP Senators Snyder and Rawson especially imperiled. At least two other R seats are thought to be at risk. The state House seems more stable, but it is already colored deep blue with 42 Dems and only 28 Republicans.

What you're seeing is not your father's Democratic Party. There is a ferociousness beneath the surface that is reminiscent of 1994 when R's regained the Congress after decades of being squished by the Democratic thumb. The R's wanted their revenge then and today the Dems want theirs.

Take, for example, the lambasting of NM GOP National Committeeman Pat Rogers and ABQ GOP State Representative Justine Fox Young. The pair decided to tie themselves to the mast and go down with the ship. When they came with charges of voter fraud, but could not produce any votes proving the allegation Democrats and their allies Monday rose up in near rage. Lawsuits were filed, and blogs and the mainstream media were all over it. Rogers and Fox-Young were soaked by the front end of the wave.

Another sign of a possible landslide in the making was seen when John McCain appeared Saturday morning in ABQ. Few, if any state Republican candidates showed up. ABQ GOP US House candidate Darren White, who stayed away from McCain's Oct. 6 ABQ visit, did give a speech at this one, but was long gone by the time McCain took the stage. White is expected to outpoll McCain in Bernalillo County Election Night.


The chairman of the state GOP, Allen Weh, is already coming under fire as the inevitable finger-pointing begins. Fairly or not, he now faces the prospect of his name forever being associated with one of the biggest Republican disasters in state history. Weh foes snipe that the decision by the party in 2006 not to seriously contest the governorship or the Bingaman senate seat now look reckless. Then there is the obsessiveness over protecting Heather Wilson in her ABQ House seat at the expense of party building around the state. Senator Domenici's decision not to retire in 2000 is more fodder for the second-guessers. Then there was the failure of the party to stop either Steve Pearce or Heather Wilson from risking their House seats to run for the US Senate. Like we said, the finger-pointing is already plentiful.

If this rout unfolds as it appears it will, the state Republican Party may find itself on the brink of irrelevancy. Top R's are already talking about how the Democrats will overreach and they will be back. Maybe. But first there is a tsunami to face and causalities to be counted.

This is not an especially friendly environment for any incumbent, so we weren't terribly surprised when we saw ABQ Mayor Martin Chavez's approval rating in Bernalillo County was at 45.08%, below the 50% mark which signals vulnerability. The poll, conducted for New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan by Positive Contacts Consulting October 22 among 712 likely voters, found that Chavez's unfavorable rating was 26.1%. Those with no opinion totaled 18.8%. But there is an "if." Chavez is more popular within the city limits and our poll was done of the whole county. Within the city, Chavez is probably right at that 50% mark, according to several polling mavens we consulted.

Still, Chavez is now serving his third four year term in and there are signs of fatigue. The days of 60% approval ratings appear gone. But what isn't gone is Chavez's political acumen vis-à-vis his opposition. He is expected to seek a fourth term next October and no big name opposition has surfaced. It appears Dem City Councilor Michael Cadigan, who has been an on again off again name, is now on again. Former State Senator Richard Romero says he may go as well. If both ran, they could split the liberal vote, helping Chavez who appeals more to moderates and conservatives.

Chavez, who wanted to advance to the governorship or Senate, sees that those dreams are out of reach. But the mayor's office is a different matter. Even with a somewhat mediocre approval rating, Chavez remains the class of his division when it comes to running for mayor. His foes have an opening, but it will take a lot of work to make it big enough to squeeze through.


Never mind the weighty issues for a moment, what about Big Bill's beard, or "goatee" as radio shock jock Don Imus called it in an interview with the Guv Monday morning? "It's gone by the end of the year. It's a pain to maintain," said Bill.

We might add that facial hair is not a good idea when doing a job interview and it looks like Bill could be doing one....by the end of the year.


We're getting near the end and you can tell it because the candidates are starting to close out on a positive note. Here's Republican US Senate candidate Steve Pearce with a soft sales pitch.


Time Magazine takes a look at the ABQ US House race and wonders if it is about to turn blue. Dem Martin Heinrich put out an e-mail Monday with the headline, "White Wins by a Hair," as he worked to motivate volunteers in the final stretch. He's still raising money, too. Former northern congressional candidate Don Wiviott is hosting a high-dollar fundraiser at his Santa Fe home for Heinrich. Wiviott, in a bitter primary campaign with Ben Ray Lujan for the northern seat, has mended fences with Lujan. Now the fund-raiser for Heinrich. Is the Santa Fe home builder looking to the future?

White said Monday his race with Heinrich has gotten even tougher in recent days, but he described it as a "dead heat" as he continued to pound the pavement.


Figures released Monday showed southern NM GOP congressional candidate Ed Tinsley had about $436,000 in cash on hand as of mid-October. We reported insider speculation Monday that Tinsley, who has loaned himself $500,000 for the general election campaign, might be planning to repay himself that money as his campaign has canceled its major TV buys for the last week of the campaign. Meanwhile, Dem Harry Teague reports his total personal loans for the primary and general election campaigns now total $1.8 million. Teague reported about $400,000 cash on hand at mid-month and a $500,000 personal loan in October. Teague is getting TV help from the national Dems while Tinsley is getting very little from the national R's.

Teague has picked up an endorsement in the heart of Republican territory. Alamogordo Mayor Steve Brockett in Otero County said: "...In these challenging economic times, I believe we need a leader who knows what it's like to struggle. I believe it takes a compassionate leader who has a record of helping hardworking New Mexico families achieve their potential. I'm voting for Harry Teague..."

Otero is a bedrock R county, but Teague, an oilman from Hobbs, is expected to cut into Tinsley's winning margin there.

Clerk Maggie
County Clerk Maggie reports that in Big Bernalillo about 97,000 votes so far have been cast by early and absentee ballot. There are 381,000 registered voters in the county. We are forecasting turnout of about 75% or 285,000. We think we are on track for a total early vote of about 60% of all votes cast, that's up from 55% in 2006. That would be about 171,000 total early votes. Dems have outvoted R's two to one in the early in-person vote. In the absentee, 20,000 Dems have voted, compared to 15,700 R's. Because of the increased early voting among Dems, we believe Election Day voting, heavily tilted in the past towards the Dems, will be less so this year.

The absentee vote among Democrats, according to several experts consulted, is not underpeforming. The Dems did not get enough of those ballots case here in 2004. The difference this time is that this is a presidential election year, drawing more voters and benefitting the Dems who claim 48% of the registered voters in the state's largest county which now comprises about 33% of the state's total. We have over 1,160,000 registered voters statewide.


Yes, ABQ is in a recession, but you already knew that. Have a government job? Hang on to it.


Democratic Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg puts $70,000 of her own money into her race as she fights off a stiff Republican challenge from Lisa Torraco. Brandenburg is seeking a third four year term. Lisa has raised over $82,000 total; Kari is over $120,000. The DA's job pays $109,000. Why hasn't Lisa been on TV with that kind of money? Kari is on TV and she is likely to win the race because of it. Even if Lisa comes in the final six days, it may not be enough for a challenger. Lisa e-mails in to say now she is on TV. Her supporters e-mail to say she is on cable-tv. But Brandenburg is on over-the-air- television. 


She won't draw 45,000 like her husband did in ABQ Saturday, but Michelle Obama will cover some important bases in northern New Mexico today when she rallies the faithful at the noon hour in heavily Hispanic and Democratic Las Vegas in San Miguel County. Kerry won the county in '04 with 71.67% to Bush's 27.34%. It was a 5,370 vote margin, but the turnout was not that great. That's a big part of Michelle's job today.

And remember, Michelle. You are in Las Vegas, New Mexico today, not Las Vegas, Nevada. We know you were in the gambling capital Monday and may get confused when you see all the Indian casinos up north today. You may think you are suffering from campaign hallucinations.

You'll be OK here. Just don't read the crazy political news. Well, you're from Chicago. You understand.

For the general election cycle, the Obamas have visited ABQ, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Espanola and Las Vegas. Initial worries about Hispanic acceptance of a black prez candidate have been replaced by worries that Dems have to protect against overconfidence as polls show Obama carrying NM handily.


No news yet on the state GOP rules committee meeting that was supposed to be held to examine whether GOP Vice-Chair Jon Barela should step down from his party post now that he has been appointed a member of the ABQ school board. There are conflicting interpretations on whether Barela can hold both posts. With the election only a week away and the R's suffering, the rules committee may want to delay any decision until after the voting. Barela has been mentioned as a possible future GOP chair, but friends say he is not that hot on the idea. We'll see.


They're still talking about the largest political rally in state history. Reader Debbie Stover was one of those at Johnson Field at the University of New Mexico to see Obama Saturday night:

I have seen no coverage of the "afterglow" of the rally. Thousands poured on to Central Avenue..they walked down the avenue waving signs and stalling traffic. But those in their cars didn't seem to mind, as most were honking and cheering for Obama. I have to tell you Joe, this was a real happening. It was like an impromptu parade, reminiscent of the 60s war protests, but with a completely different vibe. And it did not get the coverage it deserved.

Thanks, Debbie. And, yes. It was the largest political rally in state history and will be officially recorded as such. Nothing even comes close, with broadcast reports from the '96 Clinton rally in Las Cruces at New Mexico State putting the crowd there at an estimated 20,000. That number is now being inflated by some crafty e-mailing Aggies who want to lay claim to the all-time crowd title and give those ABQ Lobos something to hurt over.

NM Democratic Party Chairman Brian Colon, who lays claim to being both an Aggie--he went to undergraduate school at New Mexico State--as well as a Lobo--he is a UNM law school grad---did some independent research to determine the outcome of this all-important battle for bragging rights.

"I spoke with the NMSU regent in charge of coordinating the 1996 Clinton rally. He reports that the "Horseshoe" at NMSU was filled and the crowd estimate was 20,000. He said the high end estimate at the time was 30,000. Therefore, the Obama rally was the largest ever."

Yet another reason for the Aggies to try to extract their revenge when they meet the Lobos on the football field. Hey, maybe they can have the next Lobo-Aggie game at Johnson Field. That way they could try to beat Obama's record set there...

The home of New Mexico politics is with you through the final stretch, providing special coverage. E-mail your news and comments.

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