Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Everyone's a Front-runner

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 1, 2010

So who’s the front-runner in the Republican gubernatorial primary?

If you look at a recent poll by Dialing Services LLC, it’s Pete Domenici Jr. That automated telephone survey (robo-poll, as they’re called) of 2,250 likely Republican voters on March 22 showed lawyer Domenici with 30 percent of the vote.

Runner-up was Allen Weh, former state GOP chairman, with 21 percent. Las Cruces District Attorney Susana Martinez came in with 17 percent, Albuquerque public relations man Doug Turner had 8.5 percent and State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones had 4.5 percent.

All the calls for this poll were made between the hours of 6 and 8:30 p.m. I bet those robots were tired after that! The poll claims a 2 percent margin of error.

One caveat though. And it’s a big one. This poll was commissioned by the Domenici campaign. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but you’ve always got to take polls commissioned by campaigns with more than a few grains of salt.

Domenici’s poll came on the heels of another poll — this one independently done by Rasmussen Reports.

This one wasn’t measuring the horse race in the primary. Instead, it looked at matchups between each of the five GOP candidates against Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who is unchallenged in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

In these results was a surprise: Dark Horse Turner did better against Denish than the other Republicans. Denish beat him 43 percent to 34 percent — 9 percentage points. Rasmussen said Denish beat Weh 45 to 35 percent, a 10-point margin.

In the other matchups, Denish led Domenici by 17 percentage points (52 percent to 35 percent); Martinez by 19 points (51 to 32); and Arnold Jones by 22 percentage points (52 to 30).
In a news release, Rasmussen noted, “None of the GOP primary contenders draws more than 35 percent support against the two-term lieutenant governor.” Of course, it’s a long way to November.

Rasmussen’s poll is based on interviews with 500 likely voters in the state on March 24. The margin of error for this poll is 4.5 percent.

But just a month before these polls, North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling (a Democratic pollster) robo-called 990 New Mexico voters Feb. 18-20. Results showed Domenici running best against Denish. He was only 5 points behind her. Denish beat the rest of the GOP by 14 to 18 percentage points.

The state Republican Party last month blasted the “liberal data” from a “Democratic firm.” But the Dem poll showed the race closer in some matchups than the independent Rasmussen reported.

Public Policy Polling attributed Domenici’s stronger showing to name identification. (His dad was a U.S. senator for 36 years and made a few headlines during that time.)

But maybe there’s another explanation: Perhaps the robots doing the robo calls prefer Domenici.

Speaking of political families: As I reported earlier this week, the state Public Regulation Commission hired Johnny Montoya as its chief of staff.

Montoya, who has worked for the agency for two years, is the husband of state Rep. Rhonda King, D-Stanley, and therefore related to PRC Commissioner David King (who is Rhonda King’s cousin), not to mention Attorney General Gary King, who is cousin to Rhonda and David and son of the late former Gov. Bruce King.

But that’s not the only former governor to whom Montoya is related.

“I’m from Las Cruces,” Montoya told me Tuesday. “Jerry Apodaca first brought me to Santa Fe. I’m also related to him.”