Friday, April 30, 2010

Weh Spring Offensive Continues: Targets Martinez In Push Poll, Plus: Rove NM Visit Prompts Reflection On Past And Future Of State Party 

Our on-the-ball campaign watchers inform that Allen Weh has pulled out his branding iron and seared Susana Martinez in a negative push poll, ending the "speak no evil" chapter in the five way race for the 2010 GOP Guv nomination.

Our watchers say the Wednesday night poll into Republican households asked respondents if they would vote for Martinez if they knew she had been a Democrat before becoming Dona Ana County district attorney. They were also asked if their vote would go to her if they were aware she never had "a real job."

Martinez was indeed a Dem before getting elected to the DA's job in Dona Ana over a dozen years ago. In some GOP circles any government job is no job at all. Of course, Weh has received gazillions in federal government contracts for his CSI Aviation. It could be asked if CSI "a real" private sector business or a corporate welfare outfit?

The breaking of the peace in the ranks of the GOP comes just before the first absentee ballots go out May 4 and as Martinez appears to be the main threat to Weh. She is th contender other than Weh up with a major TV buy and she recently came with a Bernalillo County mail piece featuring the endorsement of ABQ Public Safety Director Darren White, the GOP 2008 ABQ US House nominee.

Martinez must make some kind of move here in the metro area to stop Weh, the retired Marine and former state GOP party chairman who is overwhelming the field with $750,000 0f his own money. At least half the GOP primary vote is going to come out of Bernalillo, Valencia and Sandoval counties. But we are getting vibes that Susana may not fight here tooth and nail, that she will hope for the other four candidates--all from the metro--to split this pie into many pieces while she conquers the rural areas.

Susana's hope that Weh is held down here by a split in the vote was given a bit of a boost Thursday when Jim Villanucci, the afternoon host of a popular talk show on KKOB-AM radio, openly endorsed Doug Turner. The 50,000 watt station is also home to conservative talkers Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Turner was quick to dub Villanucci a "conservative" in a fund-raising appeal he sent out after the endorsement, but the veteran radio host is also known for his moderate positions on social issues. For his part, Villanucci cited Turner's electability as his main reason for the unusual endorsement.

"Republican primary voters don’t always vote for a candidate based on their electability against Democrats in general elections. I hope that this time, Republicans will realize that Doug is our best chance to defeat the Democratic opponent this November." Said Villanucci.


Weh is on a spring offensive. His attack on Martinez follows his negative TV ad this week against Diane Denish, the soon to be Dem Guv nominee. Weh is seen as the current front runner by our senior analysts with Martinez given the best chance of stopping him. However, there is no independent polling in the race. Their opinions are based on how they see the race trending and the eventual outcome if that trends remains intact.

Martinez is treading cautiously, but the relentless Weh may force her hand if she truly wants this prize. A problem: Just how does she turn the tables on Weh and attack him in a GOP primary? His vulnerability appears to be more with a general election audience, than a conservative primary crowd.

One would think that something would have to give and that if his rivals see it slipping away, Weh will finally be subjected to some vigorous vetting, if only due to last minute panic. But don't be too concerned. The Dems have their own branding irons warming up over the fire.


Weh has the money and that buys the talent. But there is some sloppiness around the edges. Our informed Alligators say his push poll mispronounced the names of Denish and Pete Domenci Jr. The polling was apparently done by the Tarrance Group, a longtime GOP polling firm, but it seems their phone crews were not properly briefed. The outfit charged Weh $29,000 for an in depth February poll, according to state records.

And Weh's TV attack on Denish said that she used Federal stimulus funds to pay for a ride in the state jet to Gallup when Denish retorts that it was actually state money that paid for the trip.

Weh has shown us in this campaign that he is able to delegate authority to experts, but his early errors raise the question of how effective he is at oversight. And that just happens to be the primary task of the Governor of New Mexico.


We could see politics heat up this weekend with the visit of Karl Rove, the hyper-controversial former Bush guru and author of a new book. Rove will be hosted by the state GOP at a Saturday evening reception at the ABQ Hilton. It's $250 to go to the VIP reception and get the book signed; $100 for the general reception and book signing.

An Alligator hanging at the Hilton told us they saw C-SPAN setting up there, so the event may be televised nationally. The Dems are firing off all kinds of email so there will also be a healthy number of protesters on hand to welcome Rove and get TV face time.

Is the NM GOP getting enough money out of this event to justify potential negative fall out?


The larger question raised by the Rove visit is when the NM GOP is going to let go of the past and be rebuilt with young and more moderate leaders. The 2008 election was a near-extinction level event for the GOP as it lost all representation at the Federal level and was further diminished in Santa Fe. Yet we have seen little change in the philosophical direction of the party in this diverse state.

We took note of an recent eight point plan to "clean up" the corruption in Santa Fe, passed around by the GOP and authored by former Congresswoman Heather Wilson. There were some interesting suggestions, but none had the power of the one that we've repeatedly advocated--restore political competitiveness in our state by moderating the state GOP, particularly on hot-button social issues, and also relaxing its rigid economic code that prevents it from fully understanding the concerns of working class New Mexicans.

Wilson had a chance to do that, but instead fully embraced the Bush presidency as did now retired Senator Pete Domenici. The moment of truth came back in 2003 when we warned that by throwing then-GOP Chairwoman Ramsay Gorham overboard, Wilson, Domenici and Rove were abdicating any hope to expand the state party. History tells the rest of the story--complete devastation for the R's.

But the ghosts of Bush, Domenici, Wilson and Rove still hover over the state's minority party. They had their successes (Bush won NM in 2004) and it can be hard to turn the page. But if the corruption that Wilson says so perturbs her is to be eradicated, it won't be by a code of ethics, it will be by restoring competitiveness between the two political parties. That will require the Republicans to transition to a party that is not held hostage by its social conservatives. That, in turn, will require new, young faces, new ideas and new consultants. We are starting to see some.

The ghosts need to cease their haunting.


Jay Leno: "Well, executives from Goldman Sachs were grilled by Congress. I think they learned their lesson...They said for the next 24 hours, they will not take a single bonus."

Thanks for being with us this week. We appreciate your continued interest. From Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan reporting.

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