The calm before the storm

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By Jay Miller

SANTA FE — It used to be that the summer months were King’s X in New Mexico political campaigns. From primary election day to Labor Day, candidates recovered from intra-party battles and readied for the general election.
But then the national pundits noticed that New Mexico’s presidential election results were amazingly similar to the way the nation went. So our state became targeted for political ads beginning the day after the primaries.
This year, New Mexico didn’t make it onto the early lists of swing states because it gave Barack Obama a whopping 15 percent victory in 2008. But this year’s polling shows that lead considerably reduced so we are starting to see some action, especially in the U.S. Senate race between Rep. Martin Heinrich and former Rep. Heather Wilson.
So far the ads in the U.S. Senate race haven’t been painful to watch because they haven’t been negative. But that will change as money from the national parties, interest groups and super PACs begins to roll in.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has announced it is committing $3 million to Wilson’s campaign ads. Karl Rove’s American Crossroads super PAC is in the middle of a $265,000 ad buy for Wilson. Its affiliate, Crossroads GPS also is expected to join the fray.
 Other Republican groups expected to put big money into New Mexico races are the Restore our Future super PAC, the American Future Fund and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Democrat groups that have made the scene or are expected to dump big money into the state are Priorities USA Action, Natural Resources Defense Council, Verde Voters and several other environmental organizations.
New Mexico television station owners were getting worried about a considerable drop in ad revenue below the mark set in 2008. But with the advent of super PACs since the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision two years ago, the money may come in even greater amounts.
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is expected to have an impact in the state. He will be running on the Libertarian ticket. That impact, however, will not manifest itself in TV advertising revenue. Libertarians don’t attract special interest money because it is only partially attractive to each party.
 Republicans like the Libertarian views on limited government. In fact, Libertarians are a little too conservative for most Republicans. They are more in line with what has become the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.
 Liberal Democrats like Libertarian views on limited government involvement in social issues such as gay marriage and the war on drugs. They also don’t think we should be fighting wars to make the rest of the world think like we do.
So Libertarians don’t have much of anywhere to go for money. There is plenty in their platform to upset just about everyone.  The general feeling is that Johnson will take more votes from the Republican candidate but I’m guessing that it will be just about equal.
That means Johnson’s impact will be minimal. He’ll get some help from the throw-the-bums-out crowd. But those who feel strongly about either party or candidate will not want to waste their votes on someone with no chance of winning.
Johnson is expected to have less money to spend on this election than he did on his two races for governor. The national party can’t help him much and Johnson’s personal resources aren’t as extensive as they were 20 years ago.
The 1st Congressional District race in the Albuquerque area is always fought hard and brings in considerable ad money. Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham brought in money from national women’s groups in the primary and is expected to repeat in the general election.
But her Republican opponent, Janice Arnold-Jones raised very little in the primary. She was fortunate that all her opposition dropped out of the race. But we haven’t heard reports yet of national money for her in the general election.
Republicans held that seat for almost 40 years. Are they writing it off this time?
Jay Miller is a syndicated columnist based in Santa Fe.