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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Leak and Spin Have Denish & Heinrich Behind, Teague Slightly Up in Recent Polling


Spinners have been pushing hard for some time now on the meme that , the Dem candidate for New Mexico governor, and Rep. Martin Heinrich, the incumbent Dem candidate for Congress in NM-01, are running behind their GOP opponents. Today the Alligator man (you know who I mean) leaked polling, which allegedly took place in mid-August on behalf of some unnamed statewide candidate, that supports that meme. The info may or may not be true -- there's no way to tell for sure -- but I think it's a wake-up call for Democrats regardless, on many levels.

The leaked and spun poll results in question have Denish down by 12 points to GOP challenger Susana Martinez, and Rep. Heinrich trailing Republican Jon Barela by a couple points. One bright note in the leaked results: Dem Rep. Harry Teague is reportedly a couple of points ahead of GOP retread candidate Steve Pearce. However, nobody is reportedly over the 50 percent threshold that indicates they're capturing a majority of undecided (usually low information) voters. The undecided percentages are allegedly still very high and consist mostly of women and Hispanics -- many of whom generally vote Dem. Martinez has also reportedly made inroads with Dem Hispanics in the north.

Names, Not Issues
This narrative -- that has traditionally Democratic votes going instead to right-wing candidates with Hispanic surnames -- has been pushed from the start by various factions. In fact, there's been a lot of scuttlebutt that the pitches being made privately in some quarters by political operatives connected to Susana Martinez and Jon Barela have focused heavily on the message, "vote for me, I'm one of you" when talking with Hispanics. I don't know if that's true or not but I wouldn't be surprised if something like that were, indeed, happening.

Martinez and Barela certainly can't be making many points on the basis of their right-wing positions, such as they are. Clearly, both candidates have been keeping their detailed views on economic and other important issues on the low down, and focusing instead on negative bumper sticker sloganeering against their opponents and Dems in general. The less said about right-wing positions and proposals the better. The idea is to get low-interest voters to hone in on faces and sound bites and ignore what Republicans actually want to do if they regain power.

Democrats Caused This Mess, Not Us
In the case of Denish, the GOP meme is that she's responsible for everything bad (not good) that has happened in the state during the last eight years -- as if she actually had been governor or some kind of co-governor all that time. Repubs refuse to admit that the lieutenant governor post actually has very little clout in the scheme of things. Meanwhile, Barela has mostly focused on trying to paint Rep. Heinrich as an extreme left-winger who hasn't represented the interests of his constituents in Congress. Barela's BS never mentions that almost all of Heinrich's votes have matched the campaign promises he made in 2008, when he beat Republican Darren White by 10 points.

The core GOP message here, as elsewhere, is that Democrats created the mess we're in, so voters should throw the bums out. Of course, the reality is that the Bush-GOP agenda is almost entirely to blame for the hole Democrats are trying valiantly to dig their way out of. And that Republican obstructionism in cahoots with a handful of "moderate" Democrats in both the U.S. Senate and the NM Senate has made that very difficult to do.


The Republicans -- and their media echo chamber -- want it both ways. They block legislative initiatives that would help solve our problems, or make sure effective legislation is watered down as much as possible, and then complain that the problems aren't being solved and the Democrats are to blame. As one example, think about their messaging on the stimulus/recovery effort. The GOP and their cronies pushed like hell to make sure the federal stimulus package was as small as possible -- going so far as to demand that a big hunk of stimulus funding be scrapped in lieu of tax breaks. This, despite most respectable economists recommending that the stimulus be as generous as possible given the dire straits we were facing. Now that election season is upon us, however, Republicans are complaining that the stimulus didn't do enough.

An Example of Echo-Chamber Messaging
Two stories in the Albuquerque Journal today illustrate this game of obstruction/see I told you it wouldn't work. The headline on an article reporting on Sen. Jeff Bingaman's prediction that no more stimulus funds would be available to help states plug their budget holes reads like this: "Stimulus Spree Is Over, Sen. Says." Get that? The stimulus funding was nothing more than a "spending spree" -- implying it wasn't a necessary antidote to the financial and economic horrors wrought by Bush et al. Worse yet, the headline writer attributes the words incorrectly to Sen. Bingaman.

The second article is one of those quasi-news stories the Journal likes to put on the front page, which are often nothing more than spin pieces. In this case, the right-wing trending Thomas J. Cole wrote a column entitled, "Stimulus Shorts Some of Neediest Counties." The data presented doesn't reflect stimulus spending per capita in counties on things like Medicaid and public education -- which is significant -- but Cole and his employers are clearly excited to frame the issue in a way that points to problems in the stimulus bill signed by the President. It doesn't look at why the stimulus funding for infrastructure projects was less than it should have been or focused almost entirely on "shovel-ready" projects that would tend to favor more populous and hence monied counties with active plans already underway. The point is to bash Democrats.

In just one day, the Journal was able to both mock the stimulus as "spree" spending and claim the spending didn't go far enough. What a helpmate to right-wing interests the Journal has become!

The Democrats' Challenge
So where does all this leave Democrats when only 70 days remain until election day? Whether or not the leaked polling is accurate -- and we'll know more on this Sunday when the Journal releases its first poll on the governor's race -- Democrats clearly have to step up voter outreach to do two things. 1) Dems, including folks who were first-time voters in 2008, have to be convinced that what's at stake is so critical that they can't afford the luxury of staying home on election day. 2) Undecided voters must be approached on their own turf and given a clear idea of what a vote for Martinez, Barela or any other Republican really means in terms of our future. It ain't pretty, and Dems have to get that message across in no uncertain terms.

It's not easy to overcome the kind of simplistic billboard rhetoric used by the GOP to smear Dems. The truth is often difficult to explain in a few words or short phrases. But Democratic campaigns must do all they can to make sure that voters know exactly what's behind the GOP mask of faux-populism. It must become crystal clear that voting for Republicans because of their surname or their clever sound bites is just plain dangerous because of what they really stand for and what they'll do if they win in November.

We are at a critical crossroads this year -- we can either elect Democrats who will keep pushing for economic solutions that benefit the common good, or we can return to the failed policies that got us here in the first place. We can vote for Democrats who will fight hard to make New Mexico the Silicon Valley of renewable energy and green jobs, or we can elect Republicans who want to make sure green energy initiatives fail and the status quo prevails. We can choose Democrats who believe ordinary people should have access to quality health care, clean air, clean water and decent-paying jobs and benefits, or we can allow Republicans to rig everything to benefit their wealthiest donors, relegating ordinary people to a jobless, hopeless future.

Step Up Now
It's up to us to step up now and be part of the solution. Polling is just a snapshot, and there's surely enough time to turn things around and help voters see the light. We can do it -- but only if we ALL do it together. Boots on the ground, grassroots activism is what brought us such amazing victories in 2008. It can happen again, but only if we all get serious about making it happen. Volunteer now for the Democratic Coordinated Campaign and/or Organizing for America and/or one or more Democratic candidates. Talk to your friends, family, colleagues and neighbors about what's really going on this election cycle and why it's so important to keep Democrats in office, fighting for what we believe in. 

There is still time to make November 2nd a triumphant day for Democrats -- but only if we each do our part to make it so.

August 25, 2010 at 03:32 PM in 2010 General Election, 2010 NM Governor's Race, Democratic Party, Jon Barela, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, NM-01 Congressional Seat 2010, NM-02 Congressional Race 2010, Polling, Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Republican Party, Right Wing | Permalink


I almost hope Democrats do poll bad. Might wake up people up north here who want revenge on Richardson or something or are fooled by Martinez so far. When did Republicans ever do something good for us?

Posted by: Chama CC | Aug 25, 2010 4:30:29 PM

I simply don't believe the scuttlebutt that Hispanics vote on surname. It's insulting and I am tired of this assumption going unchallenged. No one has presented any imperical or statistical evidence to support such a claim. There is a reason that women and hispanic voters in new mexico are democrats. Dem party values are more in line with the cultural and gender issues that these two groups care about. Period. If we can get out the vote then we win. period.

Posted by: G | Aug 25, 2010 4:38:01 PM

So why are so many Hispanics undecided? I don't believe most Hispanics vote this way but there must be some who do. There are also anglos who won't vote for Hispanic candidates.

Posted by: Jess | Aug 25, 2010 5:25:24 PM

Regardless of the poll numbers, which are heavily influenced by the pollsters' turnout assumptions, we have to get off our collective butts and go to work for our candidates. Don't worry too much about which campaign to work for; turning out Democratic voters is good for all of our candidates.

I suggest working for the candidate with the most conveniently located campaign office. Minimizing transit time (and gas) maximizes our efficiency, as does canvassing your own neighbors.

Posted by: Proud Democrat | Aug 25, 2010 5:28:24 PM

I"ve walked the Albuquerque neighborhoods and there are lots of people that have moved here from other states that need to be registered to vote along with the mail in ballot. They don't know who Diane or Martin is.

Posted by: Get the vote out | Aug 26, 2010 7:56:01 AM

I think GOTV is fine, but there needs to be more mobilization that promotes something beyond the immediate campaign and creates a climate.

Democratic candidates seem more and more to be fighting against a larger climate that is built up by a legion of PR efforts by PAC type groups and think tanks that work constantly on the media.

Diane Denish is skillful, knowledgeable and speaks in intelligent and analytical tones. Meanwhile, her opponent is just hair-on-fire emotional and is slinging slogans.

It could be that being hair-on-fire could win, given the way the climate has been carefully cultivated by the Republican PR machine.

New Mexico doesn't seem to have Democratic think tanks or PACs much in evidence, and it is on this level that the overall political battle is really being fought.

Posted by: Stuart Heady | Aug 26, 2010 8:40:53 AM

I agree with you Stuart but it's a little close to November's election to try creating that now. All we can do NOW is work our asses off and get the FACTS out on who Martinez, Barela and the others really are.

Posted by: Old Dem | Aug 26, 2010 7:24:38 PM