Wednesday, September 17, 2008


During his New Mexico visit today, Barack Obama plans to do more than charge up a few thousand folks at a rally in EspaƱola. He also will make time to raise a little cash.
A few hours after his speech on EspaƱola’s plaza, Obama is scheduled to appear at an Albuquerque fundraiser at the home of Kandace and Paul Blanchard. Paul Blanchard is a racetrack and casino owner and major contributor to Gov. Bill Richardson.

The cost to get into the “general reception” at the Blanchards’ is a mere $2,500 a person. Once they clear out those low-rent folks, the real fun begins with a “host reception,” for which the price tag is $28,500 a person. This event includes a party favor — a photo with the candidate.

I’m not sure why the invitations include the contribution price. I thought the rule was “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”

Under federal campaign finance laws, individuals can give a maximum of $2,300 to a candidate per election. But the limit is $28,500 for contributions to national party committees.

Republicans have tried to score populism points by drawing attention to Obama’s high-dollar fundraisers. On Tuesday — in response to an expensive Hollywood fundraiser that night headlined by Barbra Streisand — state Republicans invited volunteers to a phone bank party in Albuquerque with entertainment by celebrity impersonators, including a local version of Marilyn Monroe.

Of course, GOP candidate John McCain on Monday attended a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Miami. I don’t know whether anyone sang.

New Mexico gives: Speaking of campaign contributions, New Mexicans have dropped millions on this presidential race.

According to the latest figures available on, the Web site of the Center for Responsive Politics, Obama has collected $1,408,314 from New Mexicans while McCain has received $593,324. As far as New Mexico bucks go, the Republican also trails Democratic runner-up Hillary Clinton, who raised $599,876.

But all of them trail another Democratic candidate — Gov. Bill Richardson, who ended his candidacy in January. New Mexicans gave the Richardson campaign $6,282,503.

As far as Santa Fe residents go, people in this city have given Richardson $1,624,504; Obama $792,173; Clinton $202,844; and McCain $118,787. All these numbers, according to, are based on Federal Election Commission data released electronically Sept. 2.

Poll-a-rama: Two new polls of New Mexico voters show Obama taking the lead in this battleground state. The results in the new polls were nearly identical.

According to a SurveyUSA/KOB-TV poll released Wednesday evening, Obama leads McCain by 8 percentage points, 52 percent to 44 percent.

That poll, based on automated calls to 671 likely voters from Sunday through Tuesday, showed Obama leading among Hispanic voters 69 percent to 70 percent. Earlier this week, Richardson told Santa Fe Democrats that Obama needs to get 65-70 percent of the Hispanic vote here to win the state’s five electoral votes. The margin of error is 3.9 percent.

Also on Wednesday, the New Hampshire-based American Research Group reported Obama ahead in New Mexico 51 percent to 44 percent. That poll of 600 likely voters was taken during the same period earlier this week. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.

Both polls show a gender gap, with men preferring McCain and women preferring Obama.
New Mexico poll numbers have been shifting. Recent polls by Mason-Dixon and Rasmussen showed McCain with a thin lead, though a CNN/Time poll in late August showed Obama up by 13 percentage points here.

Blog Bonus: After I filed this column for the print edition, a new SurveyUSA poll on the New Mexico Senate race came in. It shows Democrat Tom Udall ahead of Republican Steve Pearce 56 percent to 41 percent. That's 15 points, more than twice the spread of the recent Rasmussen poll that showed Pearce trailing by just seven points. And it's pretty close to a poll commissioned by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee , which I was going to ignore because I try to ignore campaign-commissioned polls on both sides,

How did you vote, Tom? As a longtime political junkie with a love-hate attitude toward campaign commercials, I have to say I kind of like Senate candidate Pearce’s recent series of 15-second spots.

First of all, they’re only 15 seconds.

And while they’re definitely attack ads, they’re definitely issue-oriented and not personal. In the ads, Pearce never comes out and says his Democratic opponent Tom Udall is a bad guy and a threat to our way of life. Pearce just says how he voted for or against something, then asks “How did you vote, Tom?” — implying, of course that Udall voted the “wrong” way on whatever the issue is — energy, taxes, “partial-birth” abortion or whatever.

Most of the ads are fairly straightforward — although there are complexities and nuances in most legislation that can’t be fully explained in 15 seconds. But one of the spots truly needs more explanation.

“I’m Steve Pearce and I approve this message to let you know where I stand,” it begins. “Raising taxes on middle-class families to pay for benefits for undocumented workers is just plain wrong. How did you vote Tom?”

Could Udall really have voted in favor of the Raise Taxes on Middle Class Families to Pay for Benefits for Undocumented Workers Act?

Actually, I didn’t remember this piece of legislation, so I consulted the fact sheet on Pearce’s Web site.
The bill, HR 3963, is better known as the State Child Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP.

Not only did Udall vote for it in the House last year, so did 43 House Republicans, including New Mexico’s Rep. Heather Wilson. In the Senate, it was supported by Republican Pete Domenici.

The bill passed Congress but was vetoed by President Bush. Both Udall and Wilson voted to override the veto (Pearce was opposed to the override), but the bill failed.

Colorado bound: Richardson continues his role as an Obama surrogate this weekend. He said during a Wednesday news conference he will campaign in the Colorado towns of Greeley, Alamosa and Pueblo.

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