Monday, February 04, 2008
Democratic Presidential Campaigns Fight for N.M. Votes
By Heather Clark/
The Democratic presidential campaigns are making their last push for votes in New Mexico with events in Las Cruces, a nationally televised town hall on Monday and hundreds of volunteers making phone calls and going door-to-door.
New Mexican Democrats have the chance to make an historic choice to put the first African-American or the first woman one step closer to the party's nomination when they cast their votes in the state Democratic presidential caucus on Super Tuesday. New Mexico is one of 22 states holding Democratic nominating contests.
Presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton turned out thousands of supporters last week at separate campaign stops, their first in New Mexico in a last-minute flurry of national attention that began when Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew from the presidential race Jan. 10.
Both campaigns have actively sought a Richardson endorsement. President Bill Clinton flew to Santa Fe on Sunday to watch the Super Bowl with the governor, but a Richardson spokesman said an endorsement was not in the air.
Obama picked up endorsements from the Albuquerque Journal, The Albuquerque Tribune and the Hobbs News-Sun over the weekend. The Santa Fe New Mexican endorsed him last week. Clinton has not received any newspaper endorsements in the state.
The battle for votes also is being fought with volunteers on the ground.
More than 500 Obama volunteers have knocked on 80,000 doors across the state over the past week, campaign spokesman Trevor FitzGibbon said Sunday.
"We feel a sea change of momentum," FitzGibbon said. "We feel that we are gaining momentum minute by minute right now. You notice it in the number of volunteers who are coming in off the street."
Kristin Lee, a spokeswoman for the Clinton campaign, said volunteers are making phone calls from their homes, holding house parties and reaching out to their communities.
She said the campaign has volunteer centers in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe and has signed up more than 10,000 supporters from across the state in the past week.
"There is so much excitement for Hillary Clinton here," Lee said. "We're continuing to build on the wave of support for Hillary in New Mexico and we're expecting to do very well on Tuesday."
New Mexicans have been turning out in droves for campaign events, including the candidates' first and only appearances in New Mexico.
Obama's events in Albuquerque and Santa Fe on Friday attracted more than 10,000 people, while Clinton saw more than 3,000 supporters come to hear her Saturday night at an Albuquerque high school. Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and Bill Clinton both stumped for Obama and Hillary Clinton in New Mexico last week.
The campaigns also have been racing to collect endorsements from current and former state and local officials.
Clinton has succeeded in gaining support from many of the state's political elite, including Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez, former Gov. Bruce King and his wife, Alice. Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. and former Navajo leader Peterson Zah also endorsed Clinton.
Obama has picked up endorsements from state Treasurer James Lewis, former Democratic National Committee chairman Fred Harris and former Albuquerque mayor Jim Baca. On Friday, former Attorney General Patricia Madrid, who had supported Edwards until last week, threw her support to Obama.
Many voters who attended campaign events last week said they didn't see many differences between the candidates on the issues, but mainly saw diverse styles.
Chris Snyder of Albuquerque said she feared Clinton was not electable in the general election.
"I'm struggling with the vote," she said. "I like Hillary Clinton, but there are a lot of people in the country who just despise her."
Clinton supporters praised the details of her proposals, while Obama supporters tended to emphasize that he will bring new ideas to the White House.
Eighty-year-old Al Adamsko of Albuquerque said he's an Obama supporter because "the seniors want to see a change from what we had."
The Clinton campaign courted Hispanic voters in southern New Mexico, sending San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros, who was a former secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Clinton, to stump with local elected officials and community leaders on the former first lady's behalf.
On Monday, Obama's wife, Michelle, will campaign for him in Las Cruces.
Clinton will hold a televised national town hall meeting with sites in 22 cities, including Albuquerque, called "Voices Across America."
The event will be at the National Hispanic Cultural Center and will be hosted by Clara Apodaca, former first lady of New Mexico.
The town hall will be broadcast live on the Hallmark Channel and on Clinton's Web site. Hillary Clinton will host the event from New York and take questions from across the country.
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