Thursday, October 09, 2008

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: LOSING THE SWING

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Octobber 1, 2008


Does it still mean a thing if New Mexico loses its swing?

In recent years, political activists, political reporters and political junkies in this enchanted land have shared a certain pride that New Mexico in recent presidential elections, despite our modest stake of five electoral votes, has been a major swing state.

Could this be changing?

It’s true, we’ve seen candidate visits: John McCain in Albuquerque on Monday, Barack Obama in EspaƱola a few weeks ago.

But according to statistics from The Wisconsin Advertising Project, a creature of the University of Wisconsin Political Science Department, neither campaign seems to be spending that much money in the battle for New Mexico airwaves, at least compared with other battleground states.

According to a WAP news release Wednesday, Obama spent $185,000 on television advertising directed at New Mexico between Sept. 28 and Saturday, while, during the same period, McCain spent $144,000. In the 15 states in which both candidates are advertising, Obama spent more in 13 states than he did in New Mexico. McCain spent more in 14 states during this period.
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Granted, you’re going to pay more for television ads in bigger states with larger populations and more TV markets than New Mexico. But states similar in size to New Mexico, such as Nevada and New Hampshire, are seeing more political ads than our state.

In 2004, WAP showed Albuquerque stations in late September and early October sold more political ad time to presidential candidates than any other market except Miami.

But this year, the Albuquerque television market, according to WAP, isn’t in the top 10 markets for either McCain or Obama. McCain’s top 10 list does include El Paso, whose television stations are watched by Southern New Mexico households. There, the Republican aired ads 474 times last week, making El Paso No. 8 in McCain’s top 10.
OBAMA IN ESPANOLA
According to the study, Albuquerque ranked 20th for total political ads last week. The campaigns, the two political parties and outside groups attacking one candidate or the other bought a total of 960 airings on Albuquerque stations.

It’s not as if they’re not paying attention to the West. The top market for political ads was Las Vegas, Nev., (a total of 2,020 spots) while No. 2 was Denver (with 2,007 spots.)

Why aren’t the campaigns spending that much for New Mexico television ads?

When asked that question in a telephone interview Wednesday, Sarah Niebler, deputy director of The Wisconsin Advertising Project, said, “I can’t speak to the strategies of the campaigns.”

But she pointed to polling figures compiled by Pollster.com. Obama is leading McCain by 6 percentage points in New Mexico, according to Pollster, which averages several polls. In Nevada, Pollster shows Obama leading by less than 2 percentage points. In both Pollster and RealClearPolitics.com, another site that averages poll numbers, New Mexico for a few weeks has been listed as “leaning Obama” while Nevada continues to be a “tossup.”

So if McCain’s numbers start improving in New Mexico, expect to see more ads from both camps.

Beware of Tony: Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza told me this week that somebody out there is calling voters, falsely claiming to be from her office and trying to get Social Security numbers.

According to Espinoza, the calls are being made by a man who identifies himself as “Tony,” telling voters their voter registrations have been denied and asking them to dial a certain telephone number to clear it up. Those who call are asked for personal information such as Social Security numbers.

First of all, Espinoza says, that number is not associated with her office. She also said her office wouldn’t ask for such information over the phone.

Finally, she said, there’s nobody named Tony who works for her. “I even checked the temporary workers we hired, and there’s no Tony, she said.

Espinoza had some good advice that law enforcement officials frequently give: Don’t give strangers personal information over the phone. That’s a good way to get your identity stolen.

E-mailing the debate: I watched Tuesday’s presidential debate at a Santa Fe Community College watch party. Luckily, I wasn’t trying to keep up with my work e-mail. During the debate, and for a few minutes after it ended, I received 38 e-mails from the Obama campaign, most of them with the subject line “Debate Reality Check.”

Before the night was done, both sides sent out e-mail news releases declaring their candidate the winner.

For some reason, the McCain camp didn’t e-mail me its version of reality checks. I suspect I’m just not on that list.

But don’t worry, guys. I think my delete finger needs medical attention.

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