Sunday, May 23, 2010

Newspapers Endorse Martinez for Governor: What Does This Mean?

The Albuquerque Journal, the Las Cruces Sun News, and the Santa Fe New Mexican--the most important newspapers in the state--endorsed Susana Martinez for Governor today. The Journal emphasized she is the only candidate who has been the top executive in a "high-profile, public agency that is held accountable by voters." Echoing the same theme, the Sun News said, "the skills needed to be a strong political leaders are often different than those needed in private business," something of a rebuke to the business-only credentials of Martinez's closest competitor, Allen Weh. The Santa Fe New Mexican hinted in their endorsement of Martinez they weren't sure Weh was electable: "Do (Republicans) want to make an ideological statement, or do they want the candidate who'll give Denish the toughest race...?"

What do these endorsements mean? Normally, not much. In this case, however, the momentum has been moving in Martinez's direction recently, in spite of Weh's outspending her, and these endorsements would seem to be welcome icing on the cake. Since last week's poll indicated the race between Weh and Martinez was too close to call, undecided voters may take the cue from these endorsements and go with Martinez. Just a one or two percent shift might make the difference between winning and losing. The endorsement from all three papers may also trigger a bandwagon effect, energizing her workers to get out their voters, while having the opposite effect on the Weh campaign.

Even as they endorsed Martinez, however, all three newspapers criticized her for going negative on Weh, in a TV ad accusing him of favoring amnesty for undocumented workers. This is hardly a credible attack, and it may even have been designed to get under Weh's skin. From what I've seen it doesn't take much to make him go ballistic. We'll see how this plays out the last week of the campaign.

Most observers I've spoken to, in both parties, believe the ads will make more difficult for Martinez, should she win, to get the enthusiastic support of Weh's supporters in the Fall. The proof, however, is in the pudding, and I wouldn't want to second guess the Martinez campaign: the sparring between Martinez and Weh in the past few days has certainly drawn attention to the race, improved Martinez's momentum, and may well have neutralized the effect of the extra money Weh has been able to spend.

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