Inside the Capitol

Sunday, April 25, 2010

4-28 Who Can Beat Diane?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Who would be the strongest Republican candidate to take on Lt. Gov. Diane Denish for governor? It is a question on many Republican and Democratic minds.
Not all minds, mind you. Some would fight to the death for their personal or ideological favorite. But many Republicans will take a more practical approach about which candidate has the best chance of winning the general election this November.
And virtually everyone who plans to vote for Denish in November is interested in how she will stack up with each of the five Republican hopefuls.
Not that they can do anything about it. Crossover primaries and open primaries are not allowed in New Mexico. Republicans and Democrats must stick with their party. Independents are out of luck.
That's for the best. It prevents mischief. Why wouldn't a strong Denish supporter not vote in the GOP primary for the weakest candidate? Voting for Denish doesn't do any good because she is unopposed.
But then the problem is choosing the weakest Republican candidate. The only official poll taken so far was at the GOP pre-primary nominating convention in March.
Susana Martinez practically swept the field in that, taking 47 percent of the delegate vote. Allen Weh was the only other candidate put on the ballot by the convention. He came in a weak second with a vote in the 20-percent range.
Janice Arnold-Jones finished in the teens. Doug Turner was in single digits and Pete Domenici, Jr. was totally embarrassed. All three of the lower tier candidates submitted extra nominating signatures to get on the ballot
Getting on the ballot with extra signatures normally is considered useless because no candidate with less than 20 percent of the convention vote has ever won. But in this particular race, those thoughts were not publicly expressed.
Before the convention, a college class conducted a statewide poll and found Domenici in first place. It may not have been a beginner's mistake. The poll wasn't just among convention delegates. It may have reflected the general public's opinion at the time.
Unfortunately for Pete, Jr., he doesn't seem to have fulfilled his high expectations since then. My wife and I are reminded of the Hawaiian tsunami for which we were evacuated. It now appears Domenici might do better in a general election than a primary. But that's not how the game is player.
Another poll, conducted since the convention shows fourth place finisher Doug Turner doing better against Denish in a general election than the other GOP candidates.
So maybe all five GOP candidates belong in the primary race. Regrettably, it doesn't matter how they would do against Lt. Gov. Denish, They have to beat all four of their opponents first. And only one of them is going to do that.
Winning the primary and the general will take a ton of money. Denish already has it and she's sitting there waiting. Allen Weh has the most on the Republican side and that will make a big difference.
But what about the prediction heard among many Democratic leaders that Weh would be the easiest Republican for Denish to beat? The Democratic reasoning is that Weh will not get much more than the white male vote, which may be enough to win the Republican primary but not a general election.
Many Democratic strategists see Susana Martinez as the most difficult Republican to beat because she has appeal to many Democratic constituencies.
If she were to win the June primary Martinez might do quite well in national fund raising from groups focused on the legislative and congressional redistricting that will occur next year as a result of this year's decennial census.
It isn't likely the GOP can take over either the New Mexico House or Senate but if they can elect a Republican governor, Democrats can be prevented from gerrymandering at will.
WED, 4-28-10

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



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