Inside the numbers: Bad news for GOP?

August 26, 2018

A poll by a respected academic pollster that showed Republican Steve Pearce two points behind Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham in the race for governor definitely made the biggest news in the New Mexico political world last week.

Naturally, state Republicans crowed about the Emerson College poll, while Lujan Grisham’s camp whined about the methodology — just like the Pearce camp whined about the methodology of a previous poll that showed Lujan Grisham way out in front.

At least both candidates had the decency not to fall back on the old cliché — “The only poll that really matters is on Election Day.”

But while the state GOP quickly sent mass emails celebrating Pearce’s strong showing in the Emerson poll, nobody in the party said anything about other findings in the survey that Republicans — including Pearce — should find troubling.

u Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mick Rich was in third place, behind incumbent Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, and Libertarian Gary Johnson. According to Emerson, Heinrich’s support was at 39 percent, former Gov. Johnson was at 21 percent, while Rich had 11 percent. The only silver lining for Republicans here is that a whopping 30 percent of the 500 registered voters polled were undecided in this race.

u President Donald Trump, who lost big to Hillary Clinton in this state two years ago, remains unpopular in this enchanted land. The poll showed Trump with only 35 percent approval for his job performance here, while only 54 percent approved.

u Gov. Susana Martinez’s numbers are even worse than Trump’s. According to the Boston-based poll, only 30 percent of those surveyed approved of her performance as governor.

For years there has been no love lost between Pearce and Martinez. During his campaign, while not directly criticizing the administration, Pearce has not vigorously defended her, either. Still, it’s possible that Susana fatigue could ultimately hurt Pearce’s chances.

But that’s not the case of Pearce’s support for Trump and many of his policies.

I haven’t actually measured, but it seems that Pearce’s congressional office has slowed down on the press releases touting Pearce’s support for Trump. Last year it seemed that Pearce’s office was playing up Pearce’s loyalty to the White House with every other email. I still believe that each of those was a potential shot to the foot.

Even though his “rah-rah Trump” missives have dwindled, Pearce still has remained virtually silent as far as any criticism of the Tweeter in chief goes.

Last week American Bridge, a political action committee favorable to Democrats, was touting a 38-second video of Pearce before an event in Raton. The PAC says this was shortly after a Virginia jury convicted former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort on eight felonies.

Pearce and a campaign aide are seen walking toward a camera as an American Bridge tracker asks Pearce if he thinks Trump should pardon Manafort. The campaign aide, Bernadette Granger, basically runs interference for Pearce. She introduces herself, exchanges pleasantries and says she wanted to take the questioner’s picture — as her boss keeps walking. When the tracker asks the question again, Granger replies, “Have a good day.”

Avoiding a question is one thing, but Senate candidate Rich seems intent on embracing the unpopular president.

On Wednesday, the day after Manafort got convicted by a jury and the day after Trump’s former lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight felony counts and in court directly implicated Trump in paying hush money to a porn star, Rich took to Twitter. Some pundits said Tuesday was Trump’s worst day as president, but that didn’t stop Rich on Wednesday.

“Cutting regulations doesn’t often make the headlines, but President Trump’s goal of cutting 2 regulations for every 1 new regulation is helping to strengthen our economy. #CutGovernment #NMpol #NMsen,” he wrote.

Later in the week, Rich blasted Johnson for criticizing Trump.

With Trump looking more and more like an albatross for the New Mexico GOP, Perhaps Pearce and Rich should listen to Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole, a Republican who in an interview with CNBC, said last week that Cohen’s plea and Manafort’s conviction weaken his party’s effort to keep control of Congress. Cole, in the interview “warned his party against retreating into ‘a fantasy world’ that assumes Trump’s predicament is not both disturbing and hazardous for the GOP.”

Fantasy world? What fantasy world?

Have a good day.

Update hourly