Friday, June 01, 2012

How's He Doing? Our Poll Asks Dems About Prez, Plus: Hot Congress race Heads To Weekend, Also: Showdown In Clovis Coverage And News From The North 

We keep hearing how New Mexico is no longer a presidential swing state. Now we have a chief reason why. On May 22 New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan, in conjunction with Manzano Strategies, polled 1,500 Democrats statewide and asked them their opinion of President Obama as well as what issues were most important to them in this primary election. Let's start with the Prez.

In the ABQ congressional district Obama is viewed favorably by 71% and unfavorably by 18% of the Democrats polled. In the northern congressional district Obama gets a favorable rating of 74% and is viewed unfavorably by 17% of the D's. In the conservative southern congressional district the president is given favorable marks by only 51% of the Dems and is seen unfavorably there by 33%.

This is good news for Obama in that there is no bleeding in his Dem base in the two congressional districts with the most Dems.

In order to win, Republican Romney has to work to get between 25% to 30% of the Dem vote and handily carry the independents. And he has to do this as Libertarian Party prez hopeful and former NM Governor Gary Johnson will be biting at his heels, taking conservative votes unto his corner that would normally go to Romney. (Johnson is running at about 10% in early polling in NM. Experts expect that to come down to low single digits by election day).

And what about the Hispanic vote you hear discussed so much this cycle? Well, Obama is positioned very well, says our survey. His favorable among Dem Hispanics in our statewide poll was 70%. Unfavorable came in at a low 18%.

Since most Hispanics are Dems, Obama is where he needs to be. His goal will be to carry a minimum 65% of the Hispanic vote with 70% or more the real target.

Democrats are about 50% of all registered New Mexico voters and until Obama shows some weakness with them, we are "leaning Dem" in the presidential race. No wonder we have yet to see Mitt here this year.


Elections are usually about jobs and the overall economy and for state Democrats that once again holds true. Among those responding to our automatic phone poll, veteran pollster and Manzano Strategies vice-president Bruce Donisthorpe reports that 32% said jobs and the economy was the premier issue. And after nearly four years of a bear market and slow growth, we all know why.

Social Security and Medicare are always big issues but they are particularly big among state Dems this year, according to our exclusive poll.

Nearly 29% of state Democrats say these two big entitlement programs are the #1 issue in this primary election. That explains why Dem Senate candidate Heinrich and Dem ABQ congressional hopeful Eric Griego have made them their banner issue. And look for the party's nominees to keep them on the front burner all year long.

Social Security and Medicare are always important, but more so today. Talk to middle class folks and they will fret about their job security, the value of their homes going down and the iffy performance of their retirement accounts. All of that makes the permanence of Social Security and Medicare very important to them.

Health care ranked third in importance in our survey, named by 17% of those Dems surveyed.


Of course, you might not know those are the top issues if you use as your guide the final week of the down and dirty, too close to call chase for the ABQ Dem congressional nomination. The race remains the talk of the town headed into the final weekend of Primary 2012,but it's all about negative sidebars--not the main issues.

After viewing the various nuke pieces coming from front runners Eric Griego and Michelle Lujan Grisham one of our Alligators said:

"Eric is either going to sneak by or she's going to cream him..."

Others say it's going to be a squeaker no matter who wins. That's why we call them "toss-ups."

We asked former NM Democratic Party Chairman John Wertheim, who we have relied on for guidance in such matters for a number of years, to offer his thoughts.

With such a low turnout all the conventional wisdom and tools of punditry don't stand up very well when it gets this close and turnout is so low... 

Former ABQ GOP City Councilor Greg Payne, who sparred with Griego when they were both on the council in the early part of the decade, but since have made amends, was predicting two weeks ago that Greigo would win, but has changed his position--at least for now:

Michelle had the momentum, as of Thursday night. It could change again. The race will be decided on election day, meaning we are tight until then. But I think it will break her way. I disagree with those who say the negative TV on Eric's traffic record was the wrong move. It showed she has grit. Also, he was not inoculated against the charges. All these years and no one knew. It has hurt him. The change in momentum goes back to the TV debate you have written about, Joe. That was the beginning of the move toward her and I think as of now she takes it.

John Wertheim and others will share their certainty or uncertainty on our KANW 89.1 FM Election Eve Special at 5 p.m. Monday. We'll also stream that program from the station's Web site.


Lujan Grisham's ad pointing out the 11 arrest warrants Griego compiled is up and running and it may be the be-all, end-all for Michelle. If it works--and the word "arrest" is incendiary--it should take her over the top. If it fizzles, she probably does. Her ad does seem more cutting than his.

We saw a new version of the spot that uses a mug shot of Griego when he was arrested for DWI back in the 80's. That's as high-level as it gets.

Griego accuses her of incompetence as state health secretary. She is going directly after his personal character for ignoring the law (Links to the ads on the Thursday blog below).

Both campaigns are now getting outside help in the crucial get out the vote ground game for the final 72 hours. Insiders say a strong and successful effort can mean an additional two to five points at the polls.

Griego and Grisham are, as they say in the south, as nervous as a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs. It is highly likely that Tuesday's loser will see their  congressional dreams ended for good..


For Griego, it has been an especially roller-coaster ride. He piled up endorsements from what seemed like dozens of national groups like the Sierra Club, scored a big victory at the pre-primary convention and was seen as on his way to the nomination. Yet he hit the wall when Michelle cleaned his clock at the one and only TV debate and came with a strong opening TV spot, and the game was on.

Michelle was remiss in getting a late campaign start and not putting together the kind of ground game you like to have in these primaries. If she had she might have already pulled away. But that TV debate showed she could hold her own on the floor of the US House and made up for a lot of sins. So did Emily's List which has pumped major resource into Grisham's effort. Now if she is in the winner's circle Tuesday night, no one will be surprised.

Former Mayor Chavez had to know it was going to be tough, having been turned back for two Dem primary nominations in recent years. (He was forced to withdraw from them because of bad polling). But he could not resist having the spotlight of La Politica shine on him one more time. The polls show him trailing by double digits. Only a major upheaval in the electorate because of the sudden outbreak of negative campaigning can save him now. A victory now would be one of the great comebacks.


Marty Chavez tells TV news voters will be attracted to him in the final days because unlike his two foes he is running a "positive" campaign That may be true on the TV airwaves where Chavez is running positive, but he is decidedly negative in the mail. Here's the second attack piece he has sent out in recent days against Griego and Grisham. If that's positive, then we're Jay McCleskey's favorite blogger.

Rep. Crook
Speaking of Jay, all-out warfare continues in the Showdown at Clovis with phone banks, TV and radio ads and a truck load of mail. The Governor and  Jay--her chief political advisor--are pulling out all the stops to salvage a win and avoid a major embarrassment.  Martinez has publicly divided the GOP by supporting Angie Spears over Pat Woods in the GOP state Senate primary. 

The Guv suffered a blow when respected Clovis area State Representative Anna Crook announced in a letter that she is disappointed in the mud-slinging and "nastiness" of the campaign that is "being driven by outsiders." That was a clear slap at ABQ-based McCleskey whose hard-ball tactics have been made into a major issue along with the consultant himself who is featured in Woods' TV ads.

Still, Crook's letter fell just short of an endorsement of Woods, but her intent was clear--the letter was typed up on Pat Woods stationary.

Crook is no lightweight. She is chair of  the House Republican Caucus.


The campaign finance reports that came out Thursday showed the race is not coming on the cheap. In total, Angie Spears has paid McCleskey's firm $47,148.92. Gov. Martinez' campaign committee gave $2,300 to Spears--the maximum allowed. This is in addition to the $5K SusanaPAC already gave. Jay runs both the Guv's campaign committee and her PAC.

What other candidates did SusanaPac give to? A list is here.


Al Park's spending has been off the charts. The Dem Public Regulation Commission candidate will easily top $150,000 in spending for the Dem nod for the ABQ area seat, but he could get some last minute money competition thanks to a Santa Fe court ruling. Cynthia Hall, who is running against Park and accepted $30,000 in public financing to run her race, reports:

Judge Barbara Vigil ordered NM Secretary of State Dianna Duran to follow the law and release matching funds to Cynthia B Hall, publicly-funded Democratic candidate for the PRC in District 1. The Secretary of State, contrary to the mandate of New Mexico's Voter Action Act, had withheld matching funds from Hall and other publicly-funded candidates for several weeks.

Hall is expected to receive $60,000 because of Park's spending. Candidate Karen Montoya's campaign says she will also get the same amount. Dem state Court of Appeals candidate Victor Lopez will also get matching funds in his race against Judge Monica Zamora. She did not take public financing and spent more than the $80,000 Lopez received.

The campaigns eligible for the matching funds are concerned that they get the money in time today to put it to work on radio and TV for the weekend. The pressure is also on the Secretary of State to get her job done on time and cut those checks and deliver them today.

Our May 22 poll showed Park polling at 33%, Montoya at 25% and attorney Cynthia Hall at 21%. Undecided was 21%.


Some of the wind has been taken out of the sails of the main rival to northern Dem State Senator Phil Griego and it appears he is on his way to a primary win. The news:

Secretary of State Dianna Duran likely won't investigate accusations made against incumbent state Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose, by challenger Jack Sullivan until after Tuesday's primary election, Duran's chief of staff said...Griego defended his spending in a three-page response, saying every expense his campaign has paid for complies with New Mexico's election code and, if errors were found, it was an oversight and not intentional...

Griego's main challenger is former Santa Fe County Commissioner Jack Sullivan, who is backed by progressives who are irritated by what they see as Griego's tilt toward corporate interests. Nicole Castellano is also in the hunt. She announced early but her campaign never took off. Griego, first elected in '96, has had a number of interesting elections since but has always survived. It looks like he will again Tuesday night but maybe not by a whole lot.

The winner of the Griego primary will face a familiar political name. Aubrey Dunn, son of former State Senator Aubrey Dunn--one of the most powerful lawmakers in state history, will be the GOP nominee. Aubrey surfaced a few years ago--in the 2008 race for the GOP nomination for the southern congressional district, but lost to Ed Tinsley. The state Senate district Aubrey wants tilts Dem.


Here's a tease from the liberal watchdog group ProgressNow New Mexico that we'll probably be hearing more about in the days ahead:

ProgressNow New Mexico has uncovered documents showing that former-congresswoman and current US Senate candidate Heather Wilson has been named in a "pay-to-play" investigation being conducted by the New Mexico Attorney General's Office. You might remember in 2011 when news reports questioned the use of federal grants earmarked by Wilson to the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department that ended up at a company owned by Wilson campaign donors.


We said this week that insiders were pegging attorney Lisa Torraco as the favorite in the GOP primary to replace outgoing ABQ NE Heights State Senator Mark Boitano, but friends of Gerges Scott, a PR maven at DW Turner, say he is keeping pace. This hit piece Scott put out on Torraco assails her for defending a client who was charged with child abuse and labels her a "slick defense attorney."

The winner of the primary will face Democrat Bill Tallman in the general election.


You might think Former NM Governor Big Bill is sleeping better after the not guilty verdict and hung jury in the John Edwards case. That's because a federal grand jury is said to be investigating Richardson on charges similar to those that Edwards faced--that Bill used campaign funds to cover up an extramarital affair with a woman who threatened to reveal the affair unless she was paid of. Several of Big Bill's former aides are reported to have been granted immunity in the case. Political scuttlebutt about Richardson possibly facing indictment has continued since he left office back in January of 2011.

Thanks for joining us this week as we tracked the exciting action. Be sure to join us here Monday as well as on KANW 89.1 FM at 5 p.m. for our Election Eve Special.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

Reporting from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

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