NM-01: Zigging Instead of Zagging
Martin Heinrich’s new Web site for Heather Wilson’s seat finally came up. And I can now say that he is actually running (yeah, I was waiting for his site to come up to say that he’s in the race) 😉 Heinrich has been raising money for a little while and, I’ve been told, has raised $50,000 so far.
One of my peeps and I have been debating Heinrich’s candidacy for a few weeks now. He said that Heinrich is still too liberal to be elected in Albuquerque. I don’t know if that’s true, but Heinrich needs to be careful about zigging too far to the left, or he’ll find his campaign tossed on the dustbin of NM-01 history with the others.
Albuquerque is not as progressive a city as the left wing of the Democratic party still wish it were. NM-01 is a moderate district that is more winnable by a “Blue Dog” Democrat than a progressive “liberal.” This is evidenced by the fact that since NM-01 went from an “at large” seat to the Albuquerque-area, no Democrat has ever held this seat. Yet in 2004, the same district went to John Kerry while re-electing Wilson.
Democrats couldn’t have been pried out of the seat before 1968. Now they can’t win it.
Once the primary season passes, Heinrich (who will either be unopposed or will win against any challenger) will have to show the rest of Albuquerque (those who do not live in District 2, 3 or 6) that he is more centrist than they currently believe.
The rest of the city, especially the growing West Side and Northeast Heights are not as liberal as the rest of Albuquerque, if you want to call them liberal at all.
Heather has drawn quite a number of votes from these areas in the past. Given Heather’s current difficulties, they are in play. But you have to be somewhat attractive to these voters, especially on the West Side – where people have long memories in regards Eric Griego, Jim Baca, the Paseo extension and a lack of services.
And the GOTV of West Side organizations isn’t too shabby. They learned quite a bit from the street bond vote of a few years back. If Martin can convince those areas that he’s not just another Eric Griego, or (to use a phrase from the ’04 and ’05 election cycles) just another “Soltari candidate,” than he has a chance to pull votes from those areas. Plus, being smarter than the previous candidates (not a hard task) would help.
The previous candidates that have been led like lambs to the electoral slaughter have had… “campaigning problems” (to be kind to them).
Whether it’s Phil Maloof and his… lack of “intellectual prowess” (Like I’ve said about other candidates, in a battle of wits between Maloof and a box of rocks, I’m taking the rocks and the points),
to Richard Romero (joking about Heather Wilson and Terrorism? Are you kidding me? What, are you existing in the same “intellectual plane” as Maloof?),
to Patricia Madrid (with her own “dee-dee-dee moments” and some ethical questions in the Vigil trial), the Democrats have not exactly fired up the (no, not the base, but the…) “mythical middle” that the mighty Kossites and Hugh Hewitt readers alike don’t want to admit exist.
The discussion needs to go like this “If a center-left candidate is available, we all need to come together to support them. They may not be the “ideal” candidate, but they are one we can get behind and vote for to get Heather out of office.”
Is this going to happen? I don’t know. I really think the left wing of the Democratic Party is more than happy to lose with “ideologically pure” candidates than to win with someone who does not match their views point by point. Is Heinrich this candidate? I think he might be, my peeps might argue otherwise.
It’s Not Just Iraq
As we saw in the ’06 election, a Democrat can’t just try to hammer Wilson on the Iraq War. Putting aside the “Uhh… Your President… Dehhrrrr…” debate screw up, the voters never really saw any of Madrid’s real policy points, especially in her mailers. Madrid went to the Iraq well, and found it pretty damn dry (like much of New Mexico in these drought-ridden years) which is why she’s sitting back and her supporters are still cringing about “black box voting”.
(Wooooooooohhhhhhhhoooooooooooooo… Cue the spooky music)
That’s where Heinrich really needs to be different from previous candidates. Time and again the Democrats have put up their “B” squad to run against Heather with some standard DPNM and DCCC talking points. And time and again they’ve fallen by the wayside while Heather’s influence in the district has grown.
Now, her constituent services and GOTV have to be among, if not the best, in the Republican party and you’re not going to get rid of her by focusing on the issue de jour.
Does Iraq need to be part of the Heinrich centerpiece? Yes.
Should it be the only piece? No.
Heinrich has been a city councilor. And a pretty successful one at that. He can relate more to the concerns of the average Albuquerqueian than Heather’s previous challengers. He’s got his ear to the ground, he knows what the people of Albuquerque are concerned about.
And as long as he doesn’t let his message get seduced by the power players in either the DCCC or the left wing of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, he has the opportunity to be the first Democrat to hold the NM-01 seat in my lifetime.