Monday, October 17, 2016

Shift In The Political Winds Has Dems Looking At Optimistic State Senate Scenario; Trump Card Soon To Be Played In Mailboxes in Key Legislatve Races; R's On Defense; "Creepy" GOP Flyer Freaks Voters: Plus: Bernie To ABQ For Hillary And SOS Candidates Clash At Their Only Debate  

The most perplexing puzzle of 2016 has been over turnout. Would the wild and wooly presidential campaign drive voters to the polls in droves or keep them on their couches? The question is of paramount importance as a dip in turnout would favor the R's and put the Dems on defense. So where do we stand with early voting centers opening this Saturday and when thousands of New Mexicans will cast their ballots?

Veteran NM pollster Brian Sanderoff says look for neither a spike or a retreat in turnout. He forecasts that the total vote cast this year will be about 800,000. That's right in the neighborhood of 2012 and if it turns out to be accurate it will cause a sigh of relief for the Dems. Trump's final weeks strategy is to depress turnout through constant negativity.

There's little question that the Dems have the wind at their back this cycle. Insider polling and news coverage shows that. Sanderoff and other experts note that the party winning at the top of the ticket usually sees that victory trickle into legislative races.


The GOP's precarious hold on the state House has the insiders and wall-leaners turning their attention to the state Senate. The Guv's political machine, on a years-long winning streak that has decimated state Democrats, has been beating its chest about strengthening its hand in the Senate, but Dems are starting to speculate that it is they who could actually gain strength in the 42 member chamber. How?

The Dems most optimistic scenario gets them a pick up of two seats. They hold on to the ABQ area seats of Senators Sapien (narrowly) and Ivey-Soto (with room to spare) and Senate Majority Leader Sanchez fends off a challenge in his Belen area seat.

(We are watching the Sanchez challenge closely and our sources in the district say Republican Greg Baca has the race in play in the early going. Look for major money on both sides to explode soon.)

In Las Cruces, Jeff Steinborn beats GOP Senator Lee Cotter and Sen. Soules hangs on to defeat Cel Levitano. Steinborn gives them one pick up and if Liz Stefanics of Santa Fe beats appointed incumbent GOP Senator Ted Barela they net two seats. That covers the seats in play and it would put the Senate in the Dems hands with a 26-16 majority, up from the current 24-18.

There's still time for the wind to shift but the current political weather calls for dusting off scenarios where the down on their luck Dems finally get a break.


Now that the polling shows it will have an impact, expect mailboxes in the key legislative races to be flooded with an anti-Trump message as Dems work to drive a wedge between him and the GOP legislative candidates.

Meanwhile, the R's continue to pound the Dems over the death penalty, sex offender laws and the like. GOP legislative candidates will be on the hot spot in the final weeks, deciding if and how they distance themselves from Trump but do not alienate their base voters. That's a defensive posture and why the voting models are now pointing more toward a Dem takeover of the House and no losses in the Senate and maybe even a gain.

For example, Republican Diego Espinoza, fighting incumbent Dem Senator John Sapien  in the swing district that includes parts of Rio Rancho and Corrales, has found himself tangled in the Trump trap:

“I’m not here to endorse anyone for president,” Espinoza said. “Whoever I’m voting for, that is up to me." Espinoza also would not comment on recently leaked audio of Trump saying women let him “grab them by the pussy” because he is famous. This didn’t stop Sapien from linking his opponent to the controversial Republican presidential nominee.
“I find it interesting that everywhere you see a Trump/Pence sign, you see a Diego Espinoza sign,” Sapien said. “The fact that he didn’t denounce Trump for his comments on Latinos and women is quite telling.”

Will Espinoza's neutral Trump stance make the difference for Sapien? It's an open question but one Espinoza surely does not need and did not anticipate when he entered the contest.

Hey, has anyone asked Republican ABQ Mayor Richard Berry if he is voting for Trump? Just wondering.


Not all Republicans are having a hard time dealing with Trump. Rosie Tripp, the longtime NM GOP National Committeewoman and wife of NM House Speaker Don Tripp, is still waving the Trump banner high:

While some Republican donors and elected officials have had it with Mr. Trump, another constituency. . . remains committed to the nominee: the 168 members of the national committee. In emails with The New York Times, some Republican state chairmen and chairwomen and national committee members affirmed their support for Mr. Trump and saluted (GOP Chairman) Mr. Priebus for standing by him.

“He is our candidate,” Rosie Tripp, the Republican committeewoman from New Mexico, wrote to other members of the committee. “I am dismayed by our own Republicans who are bailing like rats off a ship. He who is without sin can cast the first stone. I am sure they are not as pure as the driven snow, either.”


New Mexico finally got the attention of the Clinton campaign or should we say Gary Johnson got their attention. The former NM Governor and Libertarian Party presidential candidate has been polling well into the double digits here and much of that support is coming from the younger crowd, aged 18 to 34. The early October SurveyUSA gives Johnson 29 percent support in that demographic, compared to Trumps' 25% and Clinton's 37%.

That may be eating into Hillary's numbers and the campaign may be compensating for it by sending in Senator Bernie Sanders, a favorite of the younger set and who almost beat Hillary in the June presidential primary here. Sanders will host a rally at 11 a.m. Tuesday morning at Mesa Vista Hall on the UNM campus. (To RSVP for that event go here.)

Johnson was again campaigning in the state Sunday. He's spending a lot of time in his home state while he fades to 7 percent or so in the national polls. He scored 14% in the statewide vote in the recent SurveyUSA poll but the Clinton machine--with help from Bernie and other surrogates--can probably push that down some.


You may have seen this one. A flyer widely described on social media as "creepy" and put out by the NM GOP is freaking out some voters.

It's a bizarre Orwellian pitch warning Republicans that if they don't vote and vote for Republicans "your neighbors will know" you didn't "do your part" to stop the Democrats.  Pretty crazy even in a crazy year, don't you think?

It was mailed out by the state GOP and when the spokesman for the party was asked about it by a reporter, he hung up the phone. Even he seems embarrassed over this big misstep that reflects poorly on NM GOP Chairwoman Debbie Maestas.  How did she let this one out the door? And what's next? A flyer telling voters that if they watch a porno flick or something, the GOP is going to tell the neighbors?

As we've said for many a year, the Republicans and the Guv's political machine hold aces when it comes to playing offense, but not so much on defense. And for them this is a defensive year.


The race for secretary of state is probably getting more attention than usual because it's the only statewide executive office on the ballot this cycle, but that's probably good, considering the last Secretary of State, Dianna Duran, went to jail on campaign corruption charges.

At their one and only debate of the season held Sunday at Congregation Albert in ABQ Dem Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Republican Nora Espinoza clashed over photo ID for voters, with Espziona favoring it and Oliver not so much. The issue polls well for the Republicans but doesn't seem to motivate voters much. That's probably because with all the talk of voter fraud hardly any is ever discovered.

Oliver is on the TV airwaves blasting Espinoza on abortion, not exactly an issue of concern to the SOS but it shoves Espinoza to the right. Her campaign says Espinoza has bought $200,000 of TV for the final weeks of the campaign and they expect her to hit back.

One problem for Espinoza is transparency. She and Oliver both pledge it, but Espinoza refused to be interviewed for the New Mexican's campaign profile and yesterday after the debate at Congregation Albert she had campaign manager Rod Adair answer reporters questions instead of doing the task herself.  That left the impression that Adair, a former state senator and key player in the Duran SOS administration, is going to have an oversized say in any Espinoza administration.

This race is fast moving toward the Dems, with the latest insider polling showing Oliver on the move. Espinoza needs to spend that $200k wisely.

The hour long SOS debate can be seen here. Who won? Both candidates were well-prepared. Espinoza was constantly on the attack, but she had to be because she trails. Oliver was steady in her defense and landed some blows of her own. You wonder why ther tis only one debate between them.


We joked on the Friday blog that maybe Gov. Martinez--who has not ruled in or ruled out voting for Trump--might write in her own name for president, but a number of readers, including Ken Long of ABQ, pointed out there is no way to do that:

I contacted the state about how to write in a presidential candidate on the ballot for the general election. I was informed that all candidates need to register to be on the ballot before the deadline. There's no way to "write-in" a name in the voting booth.

No write-ins for president? That one got by us. Remember how we would add up the votes for Mickey Mouse and the like? Come to think of it, Mickey is looking mighty appealing this year.

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