Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Our Exclusive Poll: Senate Majority Leader Sanchez In A Race As Tight As A Drum; He Leads David Chavez by Only 2; High-Stakes Race Down To The Wire, 

State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez is locked in a extremely close battle with GOP State Rep. David Chavez and is fighting for his political survival in one of the highest stakes legislative battles in state history. That news comes from our new poll of the race--the only independent public survey conducted in the must-watch contest.

In the scientific poll conducted Tuesday night by Manzano Strategies for New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan, Sanchez leads Chavez by a mere two points--48% to 46%, with 6% undecided.

The poll was conducted by automatic phone calls among 227 likely voters in Senate District 29 and has a margin of error of 6.4%. The entire polling memo can be seen here.

Republican pollster Bruce Donisthorpe, who supervised the survey, says we are headed for a classic get-out-the-vote election as most voters appear to be decided. He added:

"Both candidates have high unfavorable ratings because of the immense amount of negative campaigning. Sanchez's favorable rating is 43% and his unfavorable rating 39%. Chavez has a 42% favorable rating and a 36% unfavorable. Perhaps some positive messages mixed in could have an impact in the race," he said.

The potential impact of the race on the body politic can't be overstated. A loss by Sanchez would be a major victory for the Governor and throw the Senate leadership into chaos, perhaps opening legislative doors for Martinez that have been firmly shut by Sanchez. However, a victory by Sanchez almost guarantees that Martinez will suffer major payback and none of her legislative program will get approved unless she agrees to major compromises.


Rep. Chavez
Sen. Sanchez
Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent by the political action committee led by Governor Martinez's chief political consultant in the effort to dethrone Sanchez. It is money that has put this race in play, but still not quite in the grasp of Chavez who is fighting to beat Sanchez in a Valencia County district that is 49% Democrat, 29% Republican and 21% independent and minor party.

Given those circumstances, Sanchez remains the favorite.

And the spending continues at a fierce pace, with the Dem friendly Patriot Majority fund beginning to attack Chavez as they fight to fend off Reform NM Now, the PAC run by Guv adviser Jay McCleksey.

Posted here today is the latest hit piece from Reform, accusing Senate President Pro Tem Jennings of being soft on child killers, Similar mail is being sent against Sanchez. Also, a hard-hitting TV ad that features Governor Martinez talking about her prosecution of the Baby Brianna case when she was a district attorney is in heavy rotation. The ad says Sanchez and Senate President Pro Tem Jennings have not voted for tough enough penalties for convicted child killers. "Sanchez and Jennings must go," the ad concludes.

Other findings from our exclusive poll: President Obama leads Mitt Romney in the Sanchez Senate district 46% to 44%. Gary Johnson gets 7% with the remainder undecided. Obama's GOTV could help Sanchez.

Donisthorpe says a total of about 19,000 voters are expected to cast ballots in the Sanchez-Chavez race, so imagine the amount of money per vote that is being spent.

Democrats are breaking for Sanchez 64% to 31%. Republicans go for Chavez 71% to 22%. It's nearly a tie with independents. Sanchez scores 48% with them and Chavez gets 45%.

Hispanic voters favored Sanchez by a 59%-36% margin, not all that high for a Democratic candidate. Donisthorpe said the Republicans fielding a Hispanic opponent seems to have helped tighten the race.

Donisthorpe reports that Sanchez is winning among women 53% to 42% and Chavez leads among men 52% to 40%.

We're watching this important race very closely for you, committing financial resources to conduct polling and calling on the top political minds in the state to provide you with updates on the latest action. It's another reason why New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan is the #1 political web site--the state's must-read.


We first conducted polling with Manzano Strategies and Donisthorpe in 2008. In every cycle they have delivered superior performance, accurately projecting the winners in all the major races surveyed or indicating when they are too close to call.


Sen. Woods
In late July we released polling that indicated Governor Martinez suffered some damage apparently because of her interference in a GOP state Senate primary there. She supported Angie Spears, but she lost to Pat Woods. Martinez political adviser Jay McCleskey--head of Reform NM Now PAC--was featured in a TV commercial by Woods and Woods was aggressively attacked by Jay. We detected some weakness in Martinez's Democratic numbers in the aftermath of that contest, but McCleskey associates Darren White and Adam Feldman took to their Twitter accounts to ridicule the polling saying the sample was to small.

Well, we take all our critics seriously so we went back to Curry County exclusively on October 2 and had Manzano Strategies and Republican Bruce Donisthorpe do 512 surveys by automatic phone to get a better picture. 193 of them were likely Dem voters so the margin of error for that subgroup is a reasonable 7%. Here's the complete polling memo on what we found and here is a summary:

An October survey of Clovis and the surrounding area shows the Governor’s approval ratings to be on the rebound in Curry County since we last polled in July. 

Manzano Strategies Polling surveyed Curry County and found the Governor with a healthy 64% favorable approval rating, while 18% had an unfavorable rating. About 18% of likely voters were unsure about the Governor.

Martinez's numbers are improving from the 51% we recorded in July. 78% of R voters gave her a favorable rating, but the Guv polls at 90% or better among Republicans in most other counties.

About 53% of Democratic voters in Curry gave the Guv favorable marks, but she polls in the 60s with Dem voters along the East Side.  However, Hispanic likely Democratic Hispanic voters gave her an unfavorable rating of 50%, while 21% were favorable. Could this foreshadow a crack in the Guv’s Hispanic ratings?  We shall see after this campaign in which Martinez has taken strong positions against leading Dem legislative candidates

In July, we wrote that the Governor’s approval rating had slipped about 20 points from October, 2011 and last July.  We focused on the hotly-contested GOP June Primary in which the Guv went all-in for her hand-picked prospective GOP State Senate candidate Angie Spears who lost to Rancher Pat Woods. We conclude that the divisive Clovis primary did indeed cost Martinez political capital and she is in recovery mode there. Her possible long term problem is lasting damage with Hispanic Democrats.

There you have it. We pride ourselves on presenting some of the most accurate polling in state history on this site. Our record in the major races speaks for itself.

Listening to both our fans and our critics--It's just one of the reasons why New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan sets the standard in state political coverage and why for years we've been the state's #1 political web site.


Heinrich's latest TV ad is all sunshine and lollipops. The script:

Coming home from Washington almost every weekend keeps me focused on New Mexico’s priorities, and what’s important. Living up to the promises we’ve made to our soldiers. Taking care of seniors by protecting Social Security and Medicare. Educating our children and keeping college affordable. Working for the middle class, not corporations.] We may all have different backgrounds, but we all share New Mexico values and priorities. I’m Martin Heinrich and I approve this message, for all of us. 

Heinrich's voice seems a bit more high-pitched than usual. Maybe they speeded up the spot a bit to fit the time or Heinrich is just getting giddy over the fact that he still leads Republcian Heather Wilson.

As for Heather's ad in which the former chairman of Heinrich's military affairs commission says he will vote for Wilson, the Santa Fe Reporter adds:

A retired US Air Force Colonel denies any financial motivation behind his endorsement of  Wilson. In Jan. 1996, Colonel Gary Van Valin says, he became the "100-percent owner" of Albuquerque-based consulting firm, Keystone International Inc., after purchasing the company from Wilson, who founded it in 1991. "I don't think that's something that you need to know," Van Valin responds when asked about the cost of the purchase. "It has been published in a paper in the past, but I don't think you need to know that."

We know. We're surprised Heather got this sloppy, but it's late in the game and she's behind two touchdowns. This stuff happens when you start throwing long.


Sen. Rubio
The state campaign trail gets two big name US Senators today:

Marco Rubio of Florida and John Kerry of Massachusetts, will try today to influence New Mexico's Senate race. Rubio will campaign in Mesilla and Albuquerque for Republican Wilson. Kerry will be in Santa Fe for an appearance and fundraiser with Heinrich...

Rubio, 41,...was behind Florida's Republican governor, Charlie Crist, by double digits in 2010 early in their race for the Senate. But Rubio caught fire with voters, and Crist ended up running a losing campaign as an independent. Kerry, 68, was the Democratic candidate for president in 2004..

Hey, Rubio and Kerry, we might need your help with federal funding for our national labs and other government funding, so enjoy yourselves and remember us when you are cruising the Potomac.


The Guv spoke to one of the largest crowds of her political career Tuesday night near Denver. Kid Rock was one of the draws so all 10,000 seats in the amphitheatre were filled. Martinez was one of those warming up the charged up crowd. Her complete speech is  here.


Attorney Chris "Ox" Ocksrider is going negative. He's the Republican facing Democrat and Bernalillo County Assessor Karen Montoya for an ABQ area seat on the Public Regulation Commission. Ox plows ahead with this TV spot. But there doesn't seem to be an active investigation into the assessor's office. The FBI questioned several employees in May--one of whom was fired by Montoya--but reported nothing. They don't announce when they end an investigation, but this one never really appeared to get off the ground.

The paper reported that the FBI was looking into the relationship between Montoya and property tax consultant and Dem State Senator Tim Eichenberg. He calls the FBI story "nonsense."

Meanwhile, Montoya has come with her own TV spot that touts some big name Dem endorsements of her, including that of PRC Commissioner Jason Marks, the Dem she hopes to replace.


Thanks, but no thanks. So says ABQ Dem state Senate candidate Lisa Curtis to the Alligators and speculators who think she could be positioned for a run at the Guv's chair in 2014. The speculation is founded in solid numbers.

Curtis--who faces an uphill battle to retain the Senate seat she was appointed to fill in a heavy R district--recently bought $80,000 in TV time in an effort to hang on. That's an extraordinary amount of money to reach a small sliver of voters, but Curtis, a successful trial attorney, says don't read anything into it:

I just have a tough district. That is why I went up on TV.  I truly have no intention of running for Governor. I have a great job that I love, and four teenagers to get through college. I really can't fun for Governor, so I appreciate the thought process and understand it because I know it is a lot of money. But I actually see the Senate as a place where I have the ability to do great good and still do my regular job. I don't need a bigger target on my back... 

Hear that, Jay? She doesn't want a target on her back so you can put that anti-Lisa TV script back in the vault...for now.

While we believe Curtis when she says she is focused on the Senate race, there is a deep restlessness in the Democratic Party over who they will field to to take on Susana in 2014. We could hear her name again and many others following the Nov. 6 election.


Don't put too much stock in talk that there's going to be a plunge in state voter turnout because the races at the top of the state ballot--president, senate and US House--are not that close. Several of our analysts point out that the national contest between Obama and Romney is exceptionally tight and while polling in New Mexico shows Obama well ahead here, average voters are not focused on that--they are focused on the national picture which gets much more exposure.

A prediction that has proven safe over the years is that turnout in the state for a presidential election will be healthy. Voting for President is in our DNA. We had a turnout of about 69.5% registered voters in 2008 for the presidential race and will get something similar this time. However, the voter rolls are not bring purged with regularity and that gives us more registered voters than there actually are and harder to increase the voter turnout percentage.

Here are the latest voting numbers from the AP:

Voter registration in New Mexico has increased about 5 percent since the last presidential election, and independent voters have grown the fastest, state election officials reported. Nearly 1.3 million people are registered and eligible to vote in the Nov. 6 general election...The number of New Mexicans who declined to affiliate with a political party when they registered to vote..has increased by 22 percent since Oct. 31, 2008...Independents account for 18 percent of voters, up from 15 percent in 2008 and 6 percent in 1984. Democrats continue to hold a big edge over Republicans in registration. About 48 percent of New Mexico's eligible voters are Democrats--down from 50 percent before the 2008 general election and from nearly 62 percent in 1984.


In our first blog draft Tuesday we did not include 1976 as a year in our lifetime when an incumbent president was defeated. That year President Ford lost to Jimmy Carter...

We know many of you want to vote early--if you haven't already--so here is the League of Women Voters on-line voting guide that profiles the candidates from the top to the bottom of the ballot.

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