Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

6-20 No Time Off From Presidential Politics

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- New Mexicans get no time off from presidential politics this year. The 2008 presidential campaign has New Mexico targeted by both presidential campaigns for many reasons.
Since statehood, New Mexico has been a marginal state, going for the winner all but twice. Those were razor-thin victories by Jimmy Carter in 1976 and George W. Bush in 2000. Since Al Gore won the national popular vote in 2000, we still can claim that our vote reflected the national vote.
There are other reasons New Mexico is targeted. It is a Rocky Mountain state. The Rockies are viewed by both sides as likely to decide the 2008 election. In the last few elections, we have been by ourself out here. Now that we have company, the spotlight is shining brighter.
Fast growth and a rising Hispanic population are factors that signal a likelihood for political change in the region so we can expect to see much of the candidates, their families and top surrogates in our sparsely populated state. That's heady stuff for a state that represents less than one percent of the Electoral College.
We also get no relief from TV ads. Within days of the last primary election, general election ads were on New Mexico television. Since New Mexico is a small TV market, candidates can try out new ads here, in a state that matters, as inexpensively as they can anywhere.
Gov. Bill Richardson also brings us some attention as a potential vice presidential selection or cabinet appointment, although the list of possible picks by presumptive nominee Barack Obama has grown considerably since he clenched the nomination.
One possibility receiving frequent mention recently is Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, who grew up in Albuquerque. Arizona would be included in the Western states Democrats are targeting except that it is now home to Sen. John McCain.
Putting Napolitano on the Democratic ticket would set up some tremendously interesting dynamics and would put Arizona in play with a candidate on each ticket. McCain and Obama have pledged to run civil campaigns but this certainly would end that.
The campaign isn't likely to stay civil even if McCain and Obama remain nice. Outside groups are sure to make big TV buys to go after both sides. There already is evidence the "swiftboaters will be back.
Whatever happens, we can look forward to it being new and different. Barack Obama not only is an unconventional candidate, he runs an unconventional campaign.
In the last several presidential elections, each party put specific states in the bank and chose a small number of states, including New Mexico, as their battleground.
This time Democrats will use a 50 state strategy, not conceding any state. Obama did that in the primaries and picked up some surprise states. Hillary Clinton concentrated on big states and ignored most small states that chose to hold early caucuses. That's where Obama beat her.
The selection of Howard Dean as national Democratic chairman was a coup for Obama because Dean operates from the same unconventional philosophy. And that is why Obama already has announced Dean will stay on as national chairman. Clinton would have dumped him.
Obama's campaign will be very different in another way. He has developed a better political organization than either party has ever seen. Call it a machine, if you will. The only difference between his and anyone else's is that all of the cogs are unknown in the political world.
I have mentioned before that Obama is a product of the best community organizing instruction in the nation. In the 1950s, Saul Alinksky, a University of Chicago professor, wrote "Rules for Radicals, a textbook on community organizing.
He used it in the ghettos of South Chicago to organize the poor to better themselves. I'm quite sure Rev. Wright was a product of that training.
Obama adopted all those techniques to political organizing but changed the message to one of hope rather than despair. Add to that the savvy of an army of tekkies and you're hard to beat.
FRI, 6-20-08

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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