Monday, August 30, 2010

New Polling: Heinrich Breathes Easier; Teague Leads Pearce, Plus: VP Biden To ABQ For DI, And: Lots More On Your Big Monday Blog 

Rep. Heinrich
After a summer of uncertainty the first re-election bid of ABQ Dem Congressman Martin Heinrich appears to be back on track. The freshman lawmaker has a six point lead--47% to 41%--over Republican rival Jon Barela in the first ABQ Journal poll and that's a welcome relief to Heinrich and state Dems. Both were freaked out by a SurveyUSA poll July 26 that showed Barela leading the incumbent 51% to 45%.

We said at the time that Barela should enjoy that poll and raise all the money he could from it because it was unlikely to last. Now that it hasn't the GOP challenger has his work cut out for him.

Not that Heinrich is completely out of the woods. Pollster Brian Sanderoff notes the sour national mood for congressional Dems and the danger that poses to a freshman like Heinrich. Also, Barela is scoring 33% of the Hispanic vote to Heinrich's 54%. If Barela could build on that he could be formidable.

Still, Heinrich was scoring 45% with critical independents to Barela's 31%. These voters tend to be on the conservative side and for Heinrich to be so nicely ahead with them this early is perhaps the most significant "tell" in this race. It could cause fund-raising headaches for Jon.

Heinrich has also begun to localize this contest to survive any GOP tsunami wave that splashes down here. His first TV ad is abut the time he spends in the district, not the votes he takes in Washington.

Barela has run a bare-bones campaign thus far and is expected to soon launch media. But he only had about $500,000 in the bank at last report. That would be all right if he were closer, but Heinrich is only three points away from the magic number of 50% and has over a million in cash with more on the way. His 47% beginning reminds us of how former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson started most of her campaigns, and she served ten years.

This poll sets the record straight--Barela is going to need more than the anti-incumbent environment to take Heinrich out. Until he shows us what, if anything, is up his sleeve, Heinrich remains in pretty decent shape to be re-elected.

Rep. Teague
Harry Teague has been left for dead by every political handicapper from DC to Deming, but somehow the freshman Dem still breathes. In fact, in the Journal poll he does more than breathe. He manages to step on the windpipe of his Republican challenger. He tops Republican Steve Pearce 45% to 42% with 13 percent undecided. That tops expectations as the R's see this as a great pick-up opportunity.

Teague's chief asset is his personality. He is extremely likable and fits the southern good ol' boy district like a glove. And like Heinrich he has been working hard to keep the race away from unpopular national issues and focus on the what he has done in the district and the time he has spent there.

But there could be big trouble to come for Teague in the conservative south. Harry has had major issues with his oil related businesses in Hobbs. Stuff like health insurance being cancelled for his employees while he takes a big bonus.

If the negative message is delivered effectively, it could make Harry of Hobbs much less likable and ultimately less electable.

But former Congressman Steve Pearce who left the seat in 2o08 to unsuccessfully seek a US Senate seat has his own baggage, not the least of which is his decision to leave the House. Also, he is more gruff than likable and a heavy negative attack on Teague is not a sure thing.

The race remains a toss-up. Maybe Susana Martinez running strong for the GOP n the Guv race in the south might be a plus for Pearce, but New Mexicans can be such notorious ticket-splitters that we wouldn't give that much weight.


It's a good bet the Prez will touch down here before Campaign 2010 heads to the history books, but first things first--or in this case second things second. That's because it appears it will be Vice President Joe Biden making a political pit stop here before his boss. The Veep will campaign (well, mostly raise money) for Dem Guv hopeful Diane Denish in ABQ's North Valley at historic Los Poblanos on September 30. From the Di invite:

Now is the time to get energized and dig deep. We have a plan to win this race, but we need all the help and resources we can get.

One of the benefits of being a member of the Denish Cabinet is that you get early notice of upcoming events, and I have a special one to tell you about. Vice President Joe Biden will be in Albuquerque on September 30th at a luncheon for Diane that will be held at Los Poblanos...

The suggested contribution for this event will be $1,500 per person for the photo reception and lunch or $500 for just lunch. However, for Cabinet members in good standing it will be $1,000 per person and $1,500 for a couple for the photo reception and $250 per person for lunch...

Denish needs to especially energize female Dems. Some observers have suggested that she bring in Hillary Clinton for ABQ and the north. Others thought Dolores Huerta, former president of the United Farm Workers, would be good for a southern swing.


President Obama will be in the New Mexico media market Tuesday morning. He is stopping at Fort Bliss in El Paso to thank the troops for their service in Iraq. El Paso TV serves Dona Ana and surrounding counties in southern NM.


On the Guv TV ad war front, the big out-of-state money is now pouring in. The Democratic Governors Association came with a new ad based on a recent ABQ Journal article that pointed out Martinez, the Dona Ana County district attorney, used Federal border security funding to hand out large staff bonuses.

Martinez's camp says the bonuses the DGA ad scores her for were to reward staff for doing extra for prosecuting border crimes and were merited.

This ad is part of the meme that the Dems are trying to establish about Susana--that she is just another "Republican politician." They scored earlier when news broke that Susana had inked a sweetheart contract with a member of her office staff for office supplies.

While the DGA was making Susana out to be a bonus baby, she was doing some attacking of her own and again relying on the symbol of the state's gravy days--the state jet. Here's her latest ad hitting Di for being a jet setter.

Anti-jet sentiment is obviously playing well in the polls and focus groups for Martinez. She's been reheating those leftovers all summer. For some in a populist mood the use, or abuse of the state jet, nicely sums up their anger.

Notice something? All the TV ads so far are about character. Even the Di ads pounding Susana for switching her position on school vouchers seems aimed a much at showing Susana as as flip-flopper than trying to gain points on the actual issue.

The economy and jobs lurk as the defining issue of our time, but the campaigns, candidates and consultants continue to go for the jugular and the emotional rise. That's just the way it is--and the way we are.

Young Susana
Susana Martinez's Hispanic heritage gives her natural entry to the Hispanic vote, but she apparently does not want it broadcast too loudly that she was born and raised in El Paso.

Texas has been the object of derision in northern New Mexico for generations. In this photo of Susana as a young girl, the caption reads "Born and Raised in the Rio Grande Valley." Well, yes, but not the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico. As provincial as that may sound, it will be an issue in some quarters. Why else does Martinez continue to camouflage her actual birthplace?

Republicans tout Martinez as proof of the diversity of their party and point out she would be the first elected Hispanic woman Governor in the nation's history. If so, why are they not telling the public about her heritage? Knowledge of her personal biography remains remarkably blank to nearly all New Mexicans at this stage of the campaign.

Denish's camp came this week with a fund-raising pitch from one of the state's most prominent Democratic Hispanics---politico and former US Ambassador to Spain Ed Romero. Ed said "it's hard to believe anything Susana Martinez says" and pointed to, among other things, her changed position on school vouchers.

By the way, Ed was born in southern Colorado.


If you listened in on the GOP Guv primary you might have thought illegal immigration was the be-all end-all issue of 2010. But it isn't among the general electorate, especially in the ABQ area where immigration has rarely, if ever, become a front and center matter in the race for Congress. ABQ GOP congressional hopeful Jon Barela came with this muted statement on the topic as he faced off with Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich at a recent debate:

On immigration, Barela said he supports a guest-worker program along with heightened border security. He said Americans should not judge illegal immigrants too harshly, however.

This is maybe where I break ranks with many conservatives," Barela said. "I happen to believe in the goodness of many of the immigrants that are here in this country. They contribute to the economy in many ways."

Barela can only pull off the upset of Heinrich if he challenges him for the middle ground. He has done that somewhat with immigration. Now, will he have the moxy to go further and where?

We've suggested Barela might find fertile ground with swing voters by challenging Heinrich on the no-end-in-sight-war in Afghanistan which he can frame as fiscally irresponsible. That's a gamble, but Barela and the R's need to go beyond the standard Republican platform.

It's true that a mid-term election produces a more conservative electorate which will benefit Barela, but the district's moderate heritage remains intact.


In the southern US House contest, Dem Rep. Harry Teague appears to have gotten the debate monkey off his back. There are two TV face-offs now slated between Teague and GOP challenger Steve Pearce. KOAT-TV will host one at 6 p.m. October 24 and KRWG-TV in Las Cruces will air another one the evening of the 27th.

Teague is not known for being comfortable on the tube so Pearce is seen as having an advantage in the debates. There will be squabbling between the two camps over having more debates but with two scheduled, the issue is neutralized.


Word has arrived of the passing of Oscar Donisthorpe. He was a Farmington area attorney, a student and teacher of La Politica, husband of former GOP State Senator Christine Donisthorpe and a father of four, including government consultant Bruce Donisthorpe whose political analysis has often graced these pages.

Some of that analysis was filtered through "Daddy Donisthorpe" who loved to crunch the numbers. After long hours of doing just that, he made the call months before Election Day that the 2006 Wilson-Madrid ABQ US House race would be decided by 300 votes. Wilson took it by less than 800 in what turned out to be the state's closest congressional race ever.

In 2008, he gave then-Congressman Pearce his county-by-county goals for his GOP US Senate primary election with Heather Wilson. Pearce met most of those goals and took the nomination.

Oscar also handled the details behind his wife’s many victorious campaigns--four for state senate, two GOP National Committeewoman contests and two Bloomfield School Board races.

He was a WWII Navy veteran, a 50 year member of the NM Bar Association and a devoted fan of the San Franciso Giants.

The never-ending book of La Politica opens for the entry of Oscar Donisthorpe.

He was 83.

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