Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Our Video Special: Wertheim, Payne & Monahan With The Guv's Race & Enchiladas, Plus: Polls! Polls! Polls! All The Major Races Updated With New Numbers, And: Pearce's Killer TV Ad 

We kick it off today with yet more exclusive analysis of that rip-roaring race for Governor. We take you to the heart of La Poltica--to the Barelas Coffee House in ABQ's South Valley--where we corralled New Mexico political veterans Democrat John Wertheim and Republican Greg Payne to give us the very latest take on the Martinez-Denish contest. It's six minutes of fast-moving video analysis, the kind you can only get here. We only wish you could taste the enchiladas.

Wertheim and Payne will be back here on the Web before the election is over and also with yours truly on Election Night on KANW 89.1 FM.


The old heart is starting to skip a beat now and again as we get flooded with numbers on the key races. There's a lot to cover so let's put on the Nikes and get going...

In the Guv battle, two new polls. One shows it to be a dead heat. The other says Susana has a decent lead. The tie poll was commissioned by the Dem Governors Association and has it 46 to 46. The other survey was conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) and has Susana leading Di 50 to 42.

The DGA survey taken Sept. 21-23, says NM Dem pollster and analyst Harry Pavlides, was conducted with households that he says are not as likely to vote as those contacted in the PPP/Daily Kos survey. More conservative voters are more reflective of the actual electorate thus Martinez is ahead in PPP. But Pavlides cautions he finds the PPP poll too much on the conservative side.

Pavlides stuck his neck out last week and said he expects Denish to have gained a little traction and to be trailing by three points in the ABQ Journal survey expected to hit the doorsteps this Sunday.

The problem is there not much excitement yet from the Dems and that puts the early vote in question which starts Oct. 5. Denish may need to start hitting the Dems over the head with a harder message sooner.

PPP polled all the major races in the state over the weekend--Sept. 25 and 26. Again, the MOE is 4.2% either way. 

Just about everyone is waiting for that Journal poll when it comes with its second Guv poll this Sunday. The first one in late August had Susana beating Di 45 to 39%.

Martinez came with her own internal poll recently that gave her a 50 to 40 lead. That's nice, but if the Journal survey differs much, it will give a psychological boost to Denish.

Analyst Wertheim says "the best negative" in the final month will win the race, but he and others still think the eventual winner will need to give a positive vision of the future and a reason why they should get the vote. Agreed.


We've never had this one in the toss-up column as some East Coast analysts have, and now it appears Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich is starting to seal the deal. The PPP poll has him besting Republican challenger Jon Barela 50% to 43%.

This is bad news for Jon who is counting on national GOP TV money coming in here to bail him out. The national R's have been announcing such buys but we've been warning we want to see the actual ads, not the promises. There are many more competitive seats in play for the R's. Another poll like this one and the plug will be pulled on Barela. He's been spinning his wheels all year. The first PPP poll in February had Heinrich ahead 45%to 36%.

Barela is a good candidate, but his message is too cookie-cutter. He has not come with new angles to attract moderate voters. In Albuquerque, if you live on the right, you die on the right. And you can take that to the bank--or the crematorium.

We suggested he call out Heinrich on Afghanistan, saying end the war and save the billions--a position  that might shake up this race. But Barela is apparently in a DC cocoon and can't hear us.

Heinrich's main problem is time. He has to stay out there another month and make no mistakes and also not get cocky. We are impressed with the campaign he is running, delivering a fresh body blow to Barela and not hesitating to acknowledge his foe by name on TV spots. The freshman congressman may have a lot of lessons to learn, but listening to sound campaign advice is not one of them.


If you don't like Harry Teague, you probably aren't human. This is one genuine guy with a smile for the world. But personality is not going to carry the day in the hand-to-hand combat for the southern congressional district. And that bad news is now manifesting itself in the PPP poll. Dem US Rep. Teague, seeking his first re-elect, has fallen one point behind Republican challenger and former US Rep. Steve Pearce. It's 48 to 47. The PPP polls have a margin of error of 4.2 percent. No one is surprised by this. The district has more conservatives than Texas has cowboys.

While Harry is avuncular and approachable, Steve is your stern uncle who won't give you a loan until you show him a credit report. But he commands respect because he is unapologetically ultra-conservative and pretty much ultra-genuine.

And then there's this--the TV ad we've been warning Democrats about ever since the Politco broke the story. Teague took a $3 million bonus in late 2009 from his Hobbs-based energy business and a couple of days later the company cancelled health insurance for all its employees, or as the ad puts it:

Congressman Teague--one of the richest men in Congress, He took a $3 million bonus from his oil company then four days before Christmas Congressman Teague cut off his employees health insurance...what kind of man would pocket $3 million, but cut off his employee health care four days before Christmas?

Oh, my! What do we say here? A back-breaker? A nuclear attack? This thing is devastating--as we thought it would be. Harry, throw us a rope here. What's your comeback?

If he doesn't have a good one, we may have to turn our head. I don't think we can stand seeing good 'ol Harry being incinerated before our eyes.


Up North, PPP says Dem US Rep Ben Ray Lujan is in good shape, trumping Republican Tom Mullins 49 to 43. Mullins has banked a lot of the GOP vote and says he can do the nearly unimaginable--take the lopsidedly Dem northern district away from freshman Rep. Lujan. Well, he might want to call Archbishop Sheehan to get him started with the Novenas.

Still, Lujan needs to work it because of the Four Corners and Clovis conservative vote. The energy is with the R's this cycle and motivating the Hispanic North to vote is still job one for Ben and the boys.


Here's a preview of what you can expect to hear from President Obama when he visits ABQ today to talk about the economy:

President Obama will make the House Republican “Pledge to America” his target this week as he embarks on a four-state swing just five weeks away from the midterm elections.

White House aides said Monday that Obama will use backyard conversations to highlight his differences with the pledge as he travels to the swing states of New Mexico, Wisconsin, Iowa and Virginia. All four states also offer a mix of toss-up House, Senate and gubernatorial races this fall.

Obama is headed to the ABQ South Valley today for a private backyard discussion with a small group. It's a heavy Hispanic area, a key constituency for the Democrats. but we don't have to tell you that.

Yes, Diane Denish will get face time with the Prez. She will attend the backyard talk and get on TV and so will Dem Martin Heinrich. Of course, this is a nonpolitical visit. No kidding.

Jon Barela
More on that hard-hitting ad from Dem Rep. Martin Heinrich accusing Jon Barela of using his position as an Intel lobbyist to push "unfair trade deals" that shipped jobs to India and China. It drew a sharp retort from the DC R's:

The fact is Barela wants to create jobs in New Mexico, while Heinrich allowed tax breaks that helped foreign companies create jobs in China rather than the U.S.: “The Department of Energy estimated that 82,000 jobs have been created and has acknowledged that as much as 80 percent of some green programs, including $2.3 billion of manufacturing tax credits, went to foreign firms that employed workers primarily in countries including China, South Korea and Spain, rather than in the United States.” (Patrice Hill, “‘Green’ jobs no longer golden in stimulus,” Washington Times, 09/09/10)


Politicians can say crazy things, and that seems to go double for some of the Tea Party candidates. Dems will relish this list of the 14 craziest things said by adherents of the nation's latest political fad.


Will they ever learn? Yet another political candidate has been busted for fudging an answer on the ABQ Journal's questionnaire. This time it's GOP land commission candidate Matt Rush. Why would he say he had a college degree if he didn't? First, we go to the newspaper and then to one our our readers:

Matt Rush, the Republican candidate for state land commissioner, has told the Journal and others that he has an associate's degree in agribusiness from Lubbock Christian University. It turns out that's premature, at best. According to the school, Rush is only one required course away from a bachelor's degree, but he never actually got an associate's degree. Rush said he assumed he had the associate's degree — although he didn't have the paper to prove it — because of all the coursework he had completed.

Now from blog reader Greg Lennes in Las Cruces:

For months Mr. Matt Rush, candidate for the all-important State Land Commissioner, has been fibbing about having an associate degree from Lubbock Christian University. How can anyone vote for that guy for a $90,000 salaried job?

He is a member of the Ethos Leadership Group where he says he "earned his degree in Agriculture and Business from Lubbock Christian University" implying he graduated the school with a full degree. The Group "assist organizations and individuals in their enhancement of professionalism, leadership, and fundraising."

It is interesting that Matt Rush is a paid speaker. He wants $3,000 to $4,500 to speak!

Thanks, Greg. The newspaper adds:

Lubbock Christian University Registrar Janice Stone said school officials had never determined Rush's eligibility for an associate's degree because he hadn't asked them to.  Now, at Rush's request, "We're looking into that," Stone said.  "Most likely, he does have all the qualifications for the associate's degree in agriculture," she said. She said Rush completed 132 credit hours and is short one required course for his bachelor's.....

The Dem land commission candidate is Ray Powell, Jr. who has previously held the post for 10 years. Rush's flub on the simple Journal questionnaire improves his already pretty good chances.

Your blogger
Will we get another bunch of reporters headed to Santa Fe to work in the new administration like we had when Big Bill took over in 2003? It has been a steady parade, but with state government PR jobs pretty much frozen up, a repeat on that scale appears unlikely. Journalists found the good-paying jobs--as much as 50 percent or more than a reporter or editor makes--pretty much irresistible. Big Bill welcomed them with open arms. Did it get him better PR? Maybe in the short term.

While PR jobs in state agencies may be tight, there will be jobs on the Governor's staff. Chris Cervini, who is handling campaign press chores for Diane Denish, is in line to take the communications job if she is elected. We blogged recently that Las Cruces political reporter Heath Haussamen (a fave of Susana's team) has been mentioned in political circles as a possible communications director for a Governor Martinez. He says he isn't interested (we'll see what he and the rest say in December) but others will be. A $90,000 plus salary can be hard to resist when you are in the low-paying press corps in the middle of a recession.

The most recent three political reporters for the ABQ Journal now all work for government. Loie Fecteau and Andy Lenderman joined the Big Bill administration after reporting on the Governor. Jeff Jones left the paper to work in government as an ABQ policeman. Former Journal crime reporter T. J. Wilham exited the paper last year to become a $75,000 a year communications aide to ABQ Public Safety Officer Darren White. Wilham covered White when he was Bernalillo County sheriff. ABQ mayoral spokesman Chris Ramirez came directly to City Hall from covering government at KOAT-TV.

Jim Ludwick, Dan McKay's predecessor as the Journal City Hall reporter, went to work for the city's Animal Control Center under the administration of then-Mayor Marty Chavez. Ludwick covered Chavez for the paper. Kate Nelson, a veteran reporter for the now defunct ABQ Tribune, is now in PR for the state after working for Lt. Governor Denish who she covered as a reporter. Gilbert Gallegos, Big Bill's communications honcho, was a political reporter for the ABQ Tribune who covered Bill's 2002 campaign. He was then tapped by Governor Bill for the PR post.

As you can see, it is a time honored tradition in New Mexico for members of the Fourth Estate to traverse to the "dark side" and spin for those they previously wrote about. This may provoke emotional responses among journalists when it is pointed out, as well as launch ethics debates, but it is a political reality. It reached a fever pitch under Big Bill and will continue with the new administration, albeit, at a much slower pace due to the shrinking government.

Could journalists (and bloggers who call themselves journalists) subject themselves to a rule that would prohibit them from joining a government agency or politician that they covered for a period of one year after leaving their news organization? It might give the public more trust in the objectivity of the reporting they are getting and which the press says is its holy grail. And maybe the reporters who get overly sensitive about hearing their names bandied about as potential press secretaries should be the first to take the pledge.

The bottom line? Don't be surprised if you see some of the newshounds covering this campaign tapping out press releases for those they covered. And don't say we didn't tell you.

This is it---the home of New Mexico politics. And from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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