Oceguera found Flores with lead, his own path to victory but no money to fund it

Ex-Speaker John Oceguera's announcement Wednesday that he would not file for Congress may not be especially surprising, considering he had no natural base and slim dollars compared to state Sen. Ruben Kihuen and education activist Susie Lee.

But his departure, I've learned, gives a window into the state of the race and indicates that Lucy Flores, the ex-assemblywoman who lost a statewide race in 2014, retains name recognition no one else has (enduring truism: no one knows who legislators are) in that contest. That finding, validating others (and common sense), comes from a poll Oceguera commissioned 10 days ago that showed Flores well in front and the other three potentially viable candidates well behind. Ex-Assemblyman Morse Arberry, who has plenty of problems, and a few fringe candidates have little or no chance.

The survey, which I have seen, was taken March 2-4 of 400 Democratic primary voters in CD4 (margin of error is about 5 percent) by Joel Benenson, a well-known national pollster who has worked for President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Here's what it showed:

----Flores, who ran for lieutenant governor in 2014, has twice the name ID of anyone else, with Oceguera in second. But more than half of the voters have not heard of Flores, so her advantage could easily be erased in an intense camapign.

----Flores, who has little cash on hand ($84,000 as of last quarter) leads the contest, as two of her own polls have shown, because of the name ID advantage. She has about a quarter of the vote with the others bunched together in single digits, but half of the voters are undecided. (If you add leaners, Oceguera edges into double digits.) Flores has tried to use this advantage to raise money, but the old cliche about a mile wide and an inch deep is quite apt here.

----Even though Flores' polling edge may be evanescent -- unless she gets an infusion of money from somewhere -- the others would have to spend money to erase it. Much to Oceguera's frustration, his poll showed he could find a path if he could make the case for himself, but it would cost much more money than he has, espcially because he is well behind Lee and Kihuen. Oceguera had $204,000 on hand (not a bad number) as of last quarter, but Lee ($646,000) and Kihuen ($373,000) were well ahead of him, perhaps prohibitively.

Oceguera's poll does not show anything much different from others I have seen, but it confirmed to him that his career as a lobbyist perhaps has more promise than one on Capitol Hill. So discretion was the better part of valor, and he decided not to continue.

Oceguera says he won't endorse, but I wonder how long Kihuen's patron, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, will take to call him, just to see how he is doing and what he might need. Kihuen put a statement making it seem as if Oceguera was his brother and both he and Lee sent out heartfelt, beautiful tweets: