9-13 First Campaign Poll
By JAY MILLER
SANTA FE -- The first independent polls of the 2006 general election campaign season don't tell us much we didn't already know. But they do confirm what some of the candidates had been telling us.
Gov. Bill Richardson and attorney general candidate Gary King had been claiming big leads and they are correct.
Patricia Madrid, the 1st Congressional District challenger, told us she is in a dead heat with incumbent Rep. Heather Wilson . And sure enough, she is trailing by less than the margin of error in the first independent poll of the campaign.
Sometimes candidate polls treat the candidate a little too well by asking questions in a manner designed to produce favorable answers.
So it was good to see the Albuquerque Journal poll, conducted by Byron Sanderhoff's Research and Polling, come in with much the same numbers. Sanderhoff has proven to be the most accurate pollster in the nation for New Mexico races.
Big leads also went to U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Reps. Steve Pearce and Tom Udall and to state Treasurer candidate Jim Lewis.
The treasurer's race is one in which the Democrat might have been expected to suffer, due to the scandals of the past two treasurers. But Lewis has served in the position before without any hint of problems.
The land commissioner race also looks close. Republican Patrick Lyons appears to have a shot at keeping the post he won four years ago for another term. He is five points behind challenger, and former land commissioner, Jim Baca, but he has a major fundraising advantage.
Republicans appear to be more than willing to help out a candidate who appears to have a chance. Lyons major disadvantage may be that the ballot is headed by weak GOP candidates for the U.S. Senate and governor, possibly causing independent-minded voters to stay on the Democrat side of the ballot.
The huge wild card still out there is the state auditor's race, in which Democrats can't seem to decide who their candidate is. Jeff Armijo, who won the primary, withdrew after revelation of sexual misconduct charges against him.
But then he changed his mind after Democrat Party leaders had set up procedures for replacing him. The results of that disaster could haunt Democrats in other races.
We promised not to say much about the 1st Congressional District race because of its negative vibes but when I get the opportunity to poke fun at a negative ad, I can't resist.
Rep. Heather Wilson's first negative ad against Patricia Madrid showed pictures of Madrid snapped by the opposition at campaign rallies.
But instead of the expected grainy pictures of her scowling, the photos showed her laughing and smiling and looking quite nice, I thought.
The final shot was of Rep. Wilson, appearing very dour and serious. Maybe the message was that Wilson was the serious candidate, but it didn't come across that way to me.
No other commentators mentioned it, but Wilson's campaign handlers must have had second thoughts because, after a few weeks, the pictures of Madrid were changed to make her look more evil.
So far, the campaign jabs taken at Gov. Richardson haven't weakened him. Sanderhoff's poll shows him with a 29 point lead over challenger John Dendahl. Eleven percent are undecided. Richardson could pick up enough of that 11 percent to give him the 60-40 vote margin he wants.
The governor's 61 percent job approval rating is a pretty good indication of that. Evidently the GOP complaint that Richardson is spending too much time out of state campaigning for president and neglecting his job, isn't selling.
Since part of a governor's job is to promote his state, running for president isn't a bad way to do it. Having a president from New Mexico wouldn't be a bad way of convincing geographically-challenged Americans that New Mexico just might actually be a state.
JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail) firstname.lastname@example.org