Tuesday, October 26, 2010

National Pew Survey Confirms Republicans are More Energized This Year: New Mexico? Democrats Beware--I May Have Underestimated Republican Strength

If a Pew Research Center study of U.S. voters is valid for New Mexico (click here), then I may have been wrong in my blog on Saturday (How Far Down the Ballot do Susana's Petticoattails Go?) predicting only a modest gain for Republicans in the state. Here's why.

In a study of likely voters (see below), Pew finds that Republicans have a huge advantage over Democrats among likely voters: 50-40 in October, up from a seven point advantage in September. This strong surge in momentum, if it continues, suggests that a Democratic candidate might have a ten point lead among registered voters, but still be neck-and-neck in the race because of who is likely to vote.

Adding to this is a subtle ethnic factor that might make a marginal difference in some races: Hispanics, who normally provide a healthy margin for Democrats, are cross-pressured in the governor's race, torn between ethnic and partisan loyalties, both strong influences on a person's vote. Cross-pressured voters tend to have a lower voter turnout rate, so if this holds, one might expect Hispanic turnout rates to be below normal for a gubernatorial year, since Susana Martinez is on the ticket for governor as a Republican. So this might raise that 10% turnout differential mentioned above to maybe 12-14 points, overall. This would bode very badly for Democratic candidates downstream on the ballot.

Thus, if the Pew numbers are accurate and valid for New Mexico, unless Democrats have put together a credible ground game to get out the vote on election day and if the momentum continues, it could affect several races, including the Heinrich-Barela race, the attorney general's race, the land commissioner's race, a PRC race, some state representative races, and, possibly, some court races, where you can kick out an incumbent with only a 43% vote of "no" for retention. Another factor feeding into the equation here is that the Pew study concludes that anti-incumbent sentiment is greater than it has been since 1994, a banner year for Republicans. This factor adds to the marginal advantages, mentioned above, for Republicans in New Mexico House races held by Democrats.

Finally, independent voters, according to the Pew study, favor Republican candidates by 19 points (49% Republican vs. 30% Democrat). In November 2006, Democrats held a seven-point lead among likely independent voters.

Bottom Line: In New Mexico this may add up to a perfect storm for Republicans. So while Susana's petticoattails may not be very long by themselves, other factors might contribute to more than modest gains by the Republican Party in New Mexico. There are, however, a lot of ifs inserted in this story, so we will have to wait until election night to find out what's what.

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