Politics is optics, and right now, the messaging from incumbent Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham’s campaign seems frantic.
A slew of official campaign emails to supporters have admitted the once-solid Democrat seat is now “one of the most competitive gubernatorial races of the election cycle,” that Republican challenger Mark Ronchetti outraised MLG in the last reporting cycle (by $450,000), that MLG’s chances of winning have been “downgraded” by political experts, and that internal polling shows the incumbent with a 3-point margin–a statistical tie for most political polls.
The governor wrote, “I’m worried that we might fall behind” and pleads in bold, “I urgently need your help.”
Real Fear or Fundraising Ploy?
Posturing as the underdog, even with a larger war chest and the weight of incumbency behind you, has its advantages. There’s a political tight rope to walk on the campaign trail. Too much confidence in assured victory can dull voter enthusiasm and depress turnout among the base, but pretending the race is closer than it actually is can embolden the opposition.
MLG has chosen the latter as her campaign strategy, but considering the nature of her attack ads against Ronchetti, there’s reason to believe the desperate tone isn’t an act.
Local media has been unrelenting in its fact-checking of the governor’s attacks against Ronchetti. Regarding her accusation that Ronchetti wants to defund the police, KOB4 News examined the source material cited in the ad and determined “there is no indication” that’s a position Ronchetti actually holds. KOAT found the same. Even the liberal Santa Fe New Mexican called Grisham’s attacks “unbelievable enough to be laughable.”
“Taking a debate statement out of context and stretching his opposition to the state budget don’t add up to proof Ronchetti is anti-law enforcement. Yet that’s the basic message of a video released earlier this week by Lujan Grisham’s campaign.”
–The Santa Fe New Mexican, “Defund the police? That’s not Ronchetti’s view” Aug. 3, 2022
MLG’s messaging is laden with claims that Ronchetti is a “pro-Trump” “far-right extremist” who “refuses to condemn white supremacist groups, and wants to ban abortion.” The problem is, none of these claims are true, and the campaign has struggled to prove any of it.
Ronchetti in fact was attacked during the primary by his more right-wing Republican opponents. He is still viewed by Ultra MAGAns and Libertarians as too moderate, in part because he is not a big fan of Trump (“the man,” at least, though Ronchetti has voiced support for Trumpian policies on crime and immigration), and particularly because Ronchetti’s position on abortion lacks the fodder a liberal Democrat needs to cast their opponent as an “extremist.”
So she lies.
We just got the most recent poll numbers on this race – and to be honest, they aren’t looking great. Right now, Governor Lujan Grisham is polling JUST 3 POINTS ahead of her far-right extremist opponent, Mark Ronchetti, and we need to lean on this powerful grassroots community once again.
–Michelle Lujan Grisham campaign email, “Will you endorse Gov. Lujan Grisham?” Aug. 3, 2022
Ronchetti may be personally anti-abortion, but he understands that the views of constituents in the politically blue but culturally Conservative New Mexico are far more nuanced. Ronchetti has proposed a 15-week ban on abortions with exceptions for the health of the mother and in cases of rape and incest–all positions that polls consistently show are supported by a vast majority of Americans.
MLG’s campaign is getting a lot of attention for the negative ads she’s putting out, but the official messaging in her emails and ads is sending a signal of its own: that this race isn’t as close as Democrats would hope.
Other than RealClearPolitics, which calls the race a toss-up, political prognosticators still mostly rank the race as leans or likely Democrat, even after Ronchetti outraised the governor by a half a million dollars last period. The only official polling has shown the race as a statistical tie–within the margin of error–with MLG posting a 3- and 4-point lead, according to PPP and SurveyUSA, respectively. An internal Ronchetti poll from mid-June claimed Ronchetti led MLG by a point, though like MLG’s internal poll, details of the surveys were not publicly released.
The next round of financial reports, covering July through September 5, will be made public mid-September.
“I’ll be honest: After the Governor’s radical GOP opponent outraised us last period, I’m worried that we might fall behind in one of the most competitive races this cycle if we don’t close this gap in time” (emphasis added).
–campaign email, “Counting on you as the countdown begins” Aug. 5, 2022
Author: Nick Wilbur