Inside the Capitol

Saturday, July 05, 2008

7-14 Pearce and Udall Sparring on Energy

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Why did Rep. Steve Pearce attack Rep. Tom Udall as well as Rep. Heather Wilson during the primary election campaign? The answer now seems clear.
Rep. Pearce hasn't had any commercials on the air since the June 3 primary election. While he's been busy raising money, he is hoping those commercials linking Udall and Wilson will stick in voters' minds.
Besides, Pearce has to raise money before he can put anything up on TV. He spent himself down to $250,000 to win that closely contested primary. A quarter million bucks won't buy much TV time.
During that period, Udall was sitting pretty, with no primary election opponent, running get-acquainted ads, primarily aimed at southern New Mexico voters and piling up a $2.8 million bank balance -- over 10 times that of Pearce.
Once the primary election was wrapped up, Udall didn't miss a beat. His ads continued without pause and are expected to continue straight through to November.
So are Pearce's ads linking Wilson and Udall as fellow liberals carrying him over the dead space of the past several weeks? They should have some positive effect.
Unlike most candidates, Pearce is not running to the middle now that he needs to attract independents and Democrat votes. So his message remains consistent, banking on New Mexico having enough committed conservatives to carry him through the general election.
Pearce will attract a significant number of conservative independent and Democrat votes and that could make the race close. But what about the moderate Republicans who supported Wilson?
Since Pearce linked Wilson with Udall during the primary, how easy will it be for Pearce to court Wilson's voters over to his side in the general election? Will Wilson's voters see Udall as being more like Wilson than Pearce would be?
Polls so far show Udall leading Pearce handily. Udall may be pouring on those television ads, hoping to dampen Pearce's current fundraising ability.
If polls stay in the 60-35 range where they are now, Pearce may not find himself in the top tier of the Republican National Committee's rankings. But then it could have the same effect on Udall's priority with national Democrats. Why give much help when he really doesn't need it?
Pearce is bravely testing whether a consistent conservative can win a statewide top-of-the-ballot race in New Mexico. Pete Domenici and all the Republican governors elected in my lifetime have run as moderates. That's something Heather Wilson stressed in her primary election campaign. She thought she could run a closer race with Udall.
Rep. Udall now has gone on the offensive with his latest ad. He attacks President George Bush rather than Pearce. He never mentions Pearce by name, thus not giving him any of the name recognition he needs to build. But Udall does tie his opponent to the unpopular Bush.
But it can't all be that bright for Udall. Republicans hold that Senate seat now and they will fight hard to keep it. Pearce will have the upper hand on the issue of oil drilling on land Udall wants to keep them off. Polls indicate New Mexicans think more drilling is part of the answer to high gas prices.
Pearce wants to debate Udall on energy issues. Udall says it isn't time for that yet. Several debates are in the works for this fall. Meanwhile the two already have a lively debate going in the press. Each is blaming the other for high gasoline prices.
Udall says a debate isn't necessary because people know his record and they know Pearce's record. Oddly, that is a dodge that 2nd Congressional District incumbents have used for years to completely avoid debates with challengers.
But now that Pearce appears to be the underdog, he wants to get on with the debating. The reason for Udall's reluctance to debate now could be that his positions are changing to accommodate some offshore drilling and increased refining capacity.
MON, 7-14-08

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



Post a Comment

<< Home