Gimmicky political science is no match for basic math. That's a lesson New Mexico Republicans still haven't learned.
They are traveling to Amarillo, Texas, for a three-day convention called "Operation Freedom." The trip can only damage Republican Mark Moores' slim chances of winning the June 1 special congressional election in the Albuquerque-based 1st District.
Moores says he will spend only part of a day making the 290-mile trip to Amarillo for a dinner, fundraising and a speech. While he's away, Democratic congressional nominee Melanie Stansbury will be securing votes across Albuquerque.
As Moores wastes more time traveling home after speaking to people who can't vote for him, Stansbury will be campaigning before New Mexico audiences.
Moores, 51, told me his jaunt to Texas and back is no great diversion from the congressional race.
"It's all ground game at this point," he said of efforts such as door-knocking and getting his backers to the polls, which are open for early voting.
Because Moores believes what happens on the ground is more important than airtime on television and radio, it's odder still he's gone along with the stunt in Texas.
Stansbury, 42, is a tenacious campaigner who's spending every minute trying to get out the vote.
She won her seat in the state House of Representatives three years ago by defeating a seven-term Republican incumbent in a district that tilted to the right. Stansbury simply outworked the competition.
She did it again this spring, staging an improbable comeback to win the Democratic congressional nomination in an eight-way race. After trailing state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez in the first round of balloting, Stansbury overtook Sedillo Lopez in the runoff.
Moores is a three-term state senator who was first elected in 2012, but he is an underdog in the congressional race. A Republican has not won New Mexico's 1st District since 2006. A side trip to Amarillo with two weeks remaining in the campaign won't improve Moores' chances.
New Mexico Republicans, led by party Chairman Steve Pearce, are staging their convention in Texas as a means of generating publicity.
When asked about the move, Pearce can carp to wider audiences about Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham creating restrictions on public gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic. Texas is Pearce's idea of freedom.
A wiser tactic by Pearce would have been to stage the convention in Albuquerque so Republican foot soldiers could have campaigned for Moores all weekend.
Moores' decision to go to Texas, even for a day, is a sign he and his party haven't learned from history and the momentous blunder of Richard Nixon.
An early favorite to win the presidency in 1960, Nixon said he would campaign in all 50 states. As the race with John F. Kennedy tightened, Nixon's staff urged him not to go to Alaska. While Nixon was in Alaska, his aides said, Kennedy would hit five states.
They were wrong. Kennedy campaigned in eight states while Nixon shook hands in the last frontier.
Republicans in the 1st District made a smart move in nominating Moores. He was their best hope of ending the GOP's long losing streak there.
Moores, though, hadn't played to his strengths even before deciding to kill time in Texas.
Moores is a conservative, but he's also a practical politician who has worked well with the Democrat-controlled state Legislature.
He joined with members of the other party on a successful measure to reduce gerrymandering in legislative redistricting. Moores also teamed with a Democrat on the bill that outlawed coyote-killing contests.
His campaign against Stansbury has been shrill and deceptive. In uncharacteristic style, Moores authorized false advertisements claiming Stansbury wants to cut funding for police departments.
Tired lines about harming police are straight from national Republican playbooks. Moores should have followed his conscience, as he's done for nine years in the statehouse, instead of accepting someone else's script.
Moores says he's confident.
"We're going to win this election," he told me the other night.
All candidates, no matter how far they're sliding, predict victory. Politicians lack the candor of criminal Willie Sutton. When asked why he robbed banks, Sutton said that's where the money was.
The Republicans can hoot their way to a few headlines in Texas. Too bad for them the votes Moores needs are in New Mexico.