Palin’s endorsement generated media buzz for Martinez across New Mexico and even caught the attention of the Washington Post. And the fact that almost 1,300 people crammed into Sunday’s rally to see Palin – even though the event was announced to the public only 24 hours earlier – is indicative of the energy Palin’s backing brings to the Martinez campaign.
Citing his opinion that Martinez is “the quintessential outsider in a field of political insiders” in the GOP gubernatorial primary, Sen. Rod Adair, R-Roswell, said Palin’s endorsement “just may well finally be the key to having Republicans focus on that fact, allowing her to overcome the heavy spending of her opponents.”
Adair hasn’t endorsed any candidate in the race but said he believes Martinez, “because of her story, her life’s narrative and her political profile, gives the Republicans far and away the best chance of capturing the governorship.”
Former state Rep. Dan Foley, who isn’t backing any candidate in the race, said the endorsement “will really help boost the Martinez campaign.”
“Gov. Palin is well liked and has strong support amongst the GOP base,” Foley said. “She also has a strong following amongst members of the tea party, which is a huge group and one that will truly have an impact in the primary as well as general election.”
Most others contacted by NMPolitics.net – who did not want to speak on the record – agreed that the endorsement will fire up supporters and provide a boost for Martinez.
The energy Palin’s supporters bring could make all the difference in the GOP primary. Turnout is expected by many to be between 30 and 35 percent. With five candidates, that means the race could be decided by a few thousand votes.
A different opinion
The lone dissenter contacted over the weekend was former U.S. Rep. Bill Redmond of Los Alamos, who said Palin’s endorsement will be a “wash” in the primary election. He said Republicans who don’t like John McCain aren’t happy that Palin has endorsed him in his tough U.S. Senate primary against tea-party favorite J.D. Hayworth.
“Those GOP voters may balance out any support Palin may swing toward Martinez,” Redmond said.
Though he believes Palin’s endorsement will help Martinez, Foley also said he wonders whether Palin’s backing of “people across the spectrum” like McCain will “water down the effectiveness of her endorsement.”
And Foley said endorsements only help “if you have the funds to let everyone know about them.”
Martinez has been vastly outspent in the primary race by Allen Weh, who has pumped $1 million of his own money into his campaign. There’s a question of whether Martinez will be able to keep up with Weh’s media buys in the two weeks of the race.
The combination of the Palin endorsement and a weekend Albuquerque Journal poll that showed Martinez and Weh neck and neck gave Martinez some momentum heading into the final two weeks of the campaign. The question is whether she’ll have the funds to keep it going.
Palin’s backing will probably help Martinez raise money. Will it be enough?
What about the general?
If Martinez does keep the momentum going and wins the primary, the Palin endorsement could be polarizing in the general election, even though Martinez has prided herself on the ability to win Democratic votes as Doña Ana County’s district attorney.
The effect Palin’s backing will have among some liberals was expressed by Damien Willis, a Las Cruces radio DJ and newspaper columnist.
“I’m a liberal, but would consider voting for Susana, because I believe that she’s very moderate, and she’s an achiever. She’s likable, goal-oriented, and determined,” he wrote on Facebook. “But Palin’s endorsement causes me to worry that Martinez may not be as moderate as I had perceived. In short, I’d rather see Martinez’s efforts working toward the middle, and not the lunatic fringe.”
Claudia Anderson, A Democratic Party activist in Farmington, wrote on Facebook that she believes the Palin endorsement will energize Democrats, just like her candidacy for vice president did in 2008.
“I was an Obama intern… and the day after her convention speech we were literally flooded with volunteers,” Anderson wrote.
Exciting the GOP base
Martinez is probably more worried at this point about Weh than a general-election contest against Democrat Diane Denish that isn’t yet a reality. The rhetoric Palin used to describe Martinez during Sunday’s rally was designed to excite the GOP base.
Palin called Martinez “a strong pro-family, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-development fiscal conservative who’s going to fight the corruption that’s plagued her state and bring transparency, accountability and renewed fiscal vitality to New Mexico.”
“As a tough district attorney, Susana fights for justice everyday in this promising, beautiful state,” Palin said. “Her unwavering commitment to bring justice speaks to her determination and strength of character. As governor, Susana will lead New Mexico to a new economic vitality based on free market reform that cuts out the cronyism, invites competition, reduces taxes, cuts waste, and creates jobs – all while identifying and rooting out the corruption that has taken hold for too long in this state which deserves so much better.”
Martinez, at Sunday’s rally with Palin, said she is “deeply honored and humbled to have Governor Palin’s support.”
“For many months, my campaign has worked hard to communicate that we must reform government and hold state officials to account,” Martinez said. “As governor, I will put a stop to the reckless fiscal policies that have produced a massive budget deficit and clean up the corruption and abuse so we can create jobs in New Mexico, while restoring integrity and honesty to state government.”
You can watch Palin’s speech here.