Sunday, October 03, 2010

Sunday Special: It's Do Or Die For Di; She Trails 47 to 41 In Journal Poll; Richardson Baggage & No Campaign Message Hurts; Susana Closing In On Prize 

If there's a panic button at Diane Denish's campaign headquarters, the time has come to push it. She trails Republican Susana Martinez by six points--47 to 41--in the latest ABQ Journal poll, reinforcing the trend from the newspaper's first survey in late August and signaling that the Denish ship while not sinking is listing. Twelve percent were undecided in the poll taken Sept, 27-30. When "leaners" were included Martinez's lead grew to 49 to 42. Margin of error is three percent.

The poll is here.

Denish has been weighed down by the negative cargo of Big Bill Richardson as well as her own campaign that has failed to deliver a definitive message to motivate her fellow Dems.

Veteran pollster and Dem analyst Harry Pavlides had predicted that Denish would trail Martinez by only three in this survey. So what happened?

Diane is still behind by six obviously because of Richardson but also because she has not come with a firm message. She needs to start being a Democrat with a capital "D" but I fear the campaign could misread what is happening and move to the right.

Voters are angry and it is Martinez who has become a vessel for that anger. She has been relentless in hammering Denish on corruption charges--true or not--and has also made inroads by virtue of being the first female Hispanic nominee of a major party.

The combination has a foot on Denish's windpipe and she can't move. However, Martinez is not yet over 50 percent because voters are waiting for something more from her. But she is likely to win if the campaign themes stay on their current course. The 47 to 41 could easily turn into 54-46 on Election Night. Denish has not been able to break 45 in any of the major public polls. That glass ceiling is looking more like cement today.

The Martinez campaign has had their candidate 10 ahead--50-40 and so did Friday's Rasmussen survey. The Journal survey is considered more comprehensive and weighted closely to the demographics of the state.

Martinez continues to lead in alll geographic areas of the state except the heavily Hispanic northcentral, but overall Denish catprues only 57% of the Hispanic vote to Martinez's 29%. That's low for a Dem. And in a real body blow, Martinez leads with women 45-42--the core constituency of the Democratic Party. Men heavily favor the Dona Ana DA--48-39. Another deadly stat: Martinez leads Denish 48 to 40 in the ABQ metro.

Martinez has led in every public poll released throughout the campaign. The only solace for Denish in this one is that Martinez is below that magic number of 50. Denish dodged a bullet. But it is clear that the eight year lieutenant governor is not the crowd favorite. At the same time, the attacks against Martinez's record as Dona Ana County district attorney have bounced off the wall. Ditto for the somewhat milquetoast attacks on her being a "Republican politician."

We've wondered aloud here about whether voters would lower the bar for Martinez because they hunger so for change. They seem to have done that, looking the other way at negative charges hurled her way that might in another year have staying power.

Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff said: "Susana's strategy of attempting to paint Denish as being somehow connected to corruption has depressed support for Denish" while Denish has no clear theme.

Martinez, 51, may or may not have to pivot to a jobs-economy message to close this campaign out. It really depends now on how much heat Denish can put on her.

To that end, Denish, 61, will have to shed her tentativeness and abandon her incremental steps toward the left and fully embrace a populist message. Baby steps like concern over payday loans aren't going to cut it--especially when folks aren't getting loans.

Senior Alligators are saying Denish needs to let people know what she has done as a Democrat and what her opponent will do as a Republican. Without that distinction, this race is a choice between two conservatives and voters are voting for the real one--Susana Martinez.

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