10-6 Susana and Obama
SANTA FE -- Susana and Obama. They almost rhyme. And they are alike in other ways. We don't know much about them and they are both minorities, which usually makes it more difficult to win.
But there is a certain magic about them. That magic propelled Barack Obama to a rather amazing election victory two years ago and it is giving Susana Martinez a big boost in this year's gubernatorial contest.
Don't ask me what that magic is. I watched from the sideline two years ago and had much warmer feelings for John McCain. I have watched Diane Denish for 40 years and admired her quiet competence. But I realize Susana has some of that Obama thing going for her too.
Maybe Pete Domenici had it also. I was a college fraternity brother of Pete so I have trouble being unbiased about him.
I never could figure out how Domenici did so well in the North. They seemed to see him as a minority also. Pete was Italian. Very Italian. His mother was an illegal immigrant for awhile. So that should qualify him.
There's another commonality between Susana and Pete. Voters who don't even know them call them by their first name. It seems to indicate a warmth toward the two from New Mexicans throughout the state.
Whatever the magic, Martinez has led every poll since her stunning primary election victory in June. Of course there are other reasons for her lead. Denish has been pulled down by the plummeting popularity of Gov. Bill Richardson.
She has been tied in Martinez television ads to corruption charges in the Richardson administration. Denish is the victim of a voter desire for change even though we don't know what that change will be.
Denish's campaign advisers have been criticized for being clueless out-of-staters who have neglected development of a campaign message in favor of a negative campaign.
Martinez's campaign staff has been criticized for making her a one-issue law-and-order candidate. The suspicion is that it is a stalling tactic until she is coached on other issues. The suspicion is heightened when Martinez is whisked away from public appearances without answering any questions.
But Martinez remains securely on top, largely unaffected by criticisms. Denish is a veteran of numerous successful campaigns. Political observers keep expecting her to find her footing and charge ahead.
With only four weeks left, there is no indication of whether she will continue to head to the right to capture independents or return back to the left to invigorate her base.
The watchword of both campaigns seems to be to not make mistakes. They appear to both shy away from debates or joint appearances in which the video of any misstep will appear on their opponent's TV ads until election day.
This leaves voters a bit in the dark. Remember back to the barnstorming tour in 1998, when Gov. Gary Johnson and Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez toured the state debating at every opportunity. It was also the cleanest campaign New Mexico has seen in ages.
But the lack of information on candidate positions doesn't seem to make much difference this year. Likely voters, as identified in the many polls being conducted, are saying they don't care about candidate positions on important issues. They just want a change.
Don't be concerned about both of the candidates being bad people. Their negative television ads are way over the top. We were in Arizona recently for a three-year-old grandson's birthday party and were surprised about the campaigning there.
With all the controversy in the state, the ads were rather civil. Maybe that is because Arizona has gone to public financing. It was adopted by citizen vote and among other features, requires debates. So they fight it out in person rather than in expensive TV ads.
What a concept.
JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail) email@example.com