Thursday, April 24, 2008


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 24, 2008

Get ready, New Mexico. This state, according to people who keep track of all these things, is destined once again to be a major battleground in the presidential contest.

It don’t mean a thing, if you ain’t in a swing state.

Last week, Washington Post political blogger Chris Cillizza listed New Mexico as the third most likely state that went for Bush in 2004 to go Democratic in 2008.

“No state has more competitive contests at the federal level than the Land of Enchantment,” Cillizza wrote. “Four of the five federal offices (Senate as well as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd congressional districts) are open this November — a level of fluidity that means that millions of dollars are going to pour into the state.

"McCain gives Republicans a fighting chance in the state due to his neighbor appeal, but the state has been trending Democratic of late and either Clinton or Obama will be favored in the fall.”

Also, a New Jersey-based pollster who has conducted automated telephone surveys in this state told me he fully expects a November nail-biter in New Mexico.

“It will be fought to the very end,” said Jay Leve, president of SurveyUSA in a telephone interview. “Your state will be one of two, three, four of the closest states in the country. New Mexico has a track record of producing cliffhangers.”

He’s right there. Republican Bush won in 2004 by less than 1 percentage point. And in 2000, Democrat Al Gore won the state by less than 300 votes.

In its most recent New Mexico poll, SurveyUSA showed Republican John McCain edging out either Barack Obama (50 percent to 44 percent) or Hillary Clinton (49 percent to 46 percent.)

But Leve said these numbers are bound to fluctuate in the months to come. “Nothing in our polling suggests that a consensus has been formed (in New Mexico),” he said. “I expect a razor-thin margin.”

Indeed, SurveyUSA’s past months’ presidential matchup results in New Mexico (CLICK HERE and HERE) shows a wild array of results in which each of the three candidates has been on top at various times.

Why does this state produce such close elections? Leve said perhaps it’s due to the mixture of cultures here. He also said in New Mexico, like many Western states, there is less loyalty to political parties based on family traditions.

“It may turn out that your five (electoral) votes could turn out to be the most important,” Leve said. “It’s my hunch that New Mexico and Colorado and a couple of other Western states could be pivotal, especially if Obama is the Democratic nominee.”

Do they still call it “soft money”?: Our neighbor to the West, McCain, hasn’t forgotten about New Mexico. Not only did he launch his first general election television ad in this state, he’s also included this enchanted land as one of a handful states in a fundraising plan.

According to the Wall Street Journal on Monday, McCain is asking wealthy donors to give more than $70,000 each to special fundraising accounts.

Yes, this is the same John McCain who co-sponsored the McCain/Feingold Act, which limits individual contributions to campaigns to $2,300 for primaries and $2,300 for general elections.

According to the WSJ, most of the money won’t go directly to the McCain campaign. Most of it would go to the Republican National Committee while some of it would be divided among the state Republican parties of New Mexico, Colorado, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The paper said the McCain campaign also plans other accounts to route money to California, Ohio and Florida.

The last lonely superdelegate: The state Democratic Party’s Central Committee will meet in Albuquerque on Saturday to choose its “at-large unpledged” delegate — in other words, New Mexico’s last superdelegate — to the Democratic National Convention in Denver in late August.

In past years, when the party’s nominee had long been settled, this position held little interest outside a small circle of party activists.

But with the Obama/Clinton contest going into extra innings, Saturday’s vote will be a test of strength between the two camps. Who knows? The way things are going, the whole nomination could boil down to New Mexico’s final “unpledged” delegate.

So far, six of the state’s superdelegates have endorsed Clinton, while two have endorsed Obama. One of those is Gov. Bill Richardson, who still has a lot of clout in the party.

Three are still undecided. These are U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, Sen. Jeff Bingaman and state party chairman Brian Colón.

Colón, under party rules, nominates the at-large superdelegate. Josh Geise, acting executive director of the party, said Wednesday that Colón has yet to decide who to nominate.

None of the undecideds will tip their hands Saturday on who they’re supporting.
Spokeswomen for Udall and Bingaman said neither will be attending the meeting. Colón normally just presides at the meetings and doesn’t vote, Geise said.

Free BBQ: Congressional candidate Don Wiviott is hosting a free Earth Day celebration and barbecue Friday at Monica Lucero Park on Bellamah Drive.

According to a news release, the party starts at 5:30 p.m., and Wiviott will address the crowd on environmental issues at 6 p.m.

Wiviott’s news release stresses that the local developer, who prefers the description “green builder,” is a “dedicated environmentalist who has been on the forefront of providing a green energy future for New Mexico.”

Wiviott obviously still is interested in capturing a chunk of the environmental vote, despite recent endorsements for his opponent, Ben Ray Luján, by the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters.

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