Friday, September 03, 2004

THE REPUBLICAN CONVENTION: WHAT NEXT FOR THE STATE GOP?

As published in the Santa Fe New Mexican
Sept. 3, 2004


NEW YORK _ For New Mexico’s delegates at the Republican National Convention, it’s been a week of rousing speeches, meeting other Republicans from across the country and generally getting fired up for President Bush.

But how do the delegates use that enthusiasm to their candidate’s advantage when they get home to New Mexico, a “battleground” state that Bush lost by less than 400 votes four years ago?

“It’s the job of all the delegates to carry back that enthusiasm and energize our people,” said Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, who also is his county’s GOP county chairman.

While the state party has gone through bitter leadership battles in the past year, the delegation in New York seems to have put those old battles behind them, at least for the next two months.

They will be up against a largely united Democratic Party, led by Gov. Bill Richardson, whose prestige in the national party adds pressure on him to delver the state’s five electoral votes to John Kerry.

But GOP delegates interviewed Thursday seemed up for the fight.

“In the next two weeks you’ll see with a new voter registration program, recruiting more volunteers and preparing for a massive get-out-the vote effort,” White said.

White said New Mexico Republicans will be targeting the small group of undecided voters, who could end up determining who gets New Mexico’s undecided vote.

Former Congressman and secretary of interior Manuel Lujan said Thursday he thinks the Republican effort in New Mexico will be helped next week when Vice Presdident Cheney visits Roswell.

“I’m sure (Biush will) be back to the state again before the election, Lujan said. “And I’m sure other Republican luminaries will be here too.”

“The rest of us will just have to talk to voters and get them to vote,” Lujan said. He said to expect large direct mail and telephone bank effort in the state.

“But you can’t talk to everyone,” Lujan said. “There will be lots of t.v., radio and newspaper ads drawing the comparison between John Kerry and the president.”

Lujan said a new organization called the Hispanic Alliance for Progress Institute should help the GOP with the Hispanic vote -- which normally goes to Democrats by a large margin in New Mexico.

“They’ve got a data base of 8 million Hispanic voters nationwide,” he said. The institute will be conducting mail and phone campaigns for Bush, Lujan said. He didn’t know the group’s budget for New Mexico.

Delegate Jesse Dompreh, an Albuquerque insurance agent, said he believes the GOP must “intensify our outreach to minorities.”

Dompreh, who is an African-Amercan said if the party makes a real effort to appeal to minorities, “it’ll pull strength away from the Democrats.

He said he’s been talking with party leaders and state officials with the Bush-Cheney campaign. “We have a plan,” he said.

Jonathan Collard, 25, of Albuquerque is the delegation’s youngest member. Collard, who is a national committeeman for the Young Republicans, says it’s his job to get his organization to get the Bush message out to young people.

He said his organization -- which he said numbers in the hundreds -- will be involved in a voter registration program aimed at young voters.

State Rep. Joe Thompson of Albuquerque, who is an alternate delegate, said he doesn’t think the party should “pander” to any ethnic or age group.

Thompson said he attended a workshop this week with Bush’s political advisor Karl Rove and other leading GOP strategists.

“What they said was that the Republican Party sells concepts,” Thompson said. “We talk about the role of government and the role of individual responsibility instead of the old-style politics of `What’s in this for me?’”

Thompson said that this year, instead of depending on early and absentee ballots -- a traditional Republican strength -- the Bush campaign is going to have to have a major final countdown effort.

“We’ll have to do an intensive last 72-hours effort to turn out the vote,” he said. “We’ll have to have a magnificent ground game. This is no time for gimmicks and trick plays.”

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