Thursday, September 09, 2010

New Mexico Governor Race

Race of the Day

New Mexico Governor

September 9, 2010
54 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Open
2008 Presidential Result: Blue State (West)

Outlook: Leans Republican

Just a year ago, few would have claimed that a Republican might win the Governorship in the Land of Enchantment, but much has changed since then, and at this point, the GOP nominee appears to have continued to move in an upward trajectory and is now the favorite to win.

In 2008, Democrat Governor Bill Richardson was still popular in his state, despite the failure of his bid for President that year to gain much steam. Considered the first serious Hispanic candidate for the White House, Richardson was seen as likely to leave to join the Obama Administration and he was indeed nominated to become Secretary of Commerce. While that may not have been Richardson's ideal job, he appeared to be headed back to Washington D.C., in a move that would have elevated his two term Lt. Governor Diane Denish into the role of Governor, allowing her to seek the office in 2010 as an incumbent. Allegations of influence peddling surfaced at home for Richardson and he reluctantly withdraw his name for consideration for the Cabinet. He decided to stay on as Governor and try to clear his name, leaving Denish in a holding pattern at the state's number two. While Richardson appears to have weathered the scandal storm, his popularity has taken a steep fall the past two years and the voters appear anxious for a change.

This fall, Denish is facing Republican Susana Martinez. The GOP candidate is the District Attorney of Dona Ana County, a fairly strong Democrat area of the state, where Martinez was first elected in 1996. In a state that is one of the most heavily Hispanic in the nation, Martinez's last name and family background is probably a beneficial thing. In the primary for Governor, the prosecutor captured a majority of the vote in a somewhat crowded field of more notable candidates and names. Martinez had boosted her campaign by winning a party nominating convention and shortly before the primary, the candidate had been endorsed by Sarah Palin.

Earlier in the year, Denish held a lead over all potential Republican opponents and looked like a heavy favorite to win the third consecutive Gubernatorial elections for Democrats in the state. On the heels of her primary win though, Martinez was on the receiving end of a bit of a surge putting into a dead heat with Denish. This race between two women, who look at least somewhat alike, was suddenly a tossup and seemed likely to stay that way until Election Day.

Most recently though, polls from Rasmussen Reports and the Albuquerque Journal show undecided voters have started breaking for Martinez giving her a lead of about five or six points currently. Based on that, and the overall perception that the "change" message will favor the GOP, I have to now consider the race as leaning in the Republican's direction, with the caveat that the contest should be competitive enough to have the potential to change.

At the moment though, Denish is probably in the post-Labor Day position of needing to hope for
some sort of game changer and imagining how different her political situation would be if the now unpopular boss, who she once publicly claimed could be a little too touchy feely with her, had found a way to leave Santa Fe after all.

Martinez campaign link:

2010 Governor races predicted thus far: 6 D, 17 R
Predicted Gubernatorial totals thus far: 13 D, 23 R