Thursday, February 25, 2010

The New Mexico House Races

Harry Teague is New Mexico's most popular Congressman but he is nevertheless also the one most likely to lose this year.

Teague's approval rating is a positive 41/36 spread, followed by Martin Heinrich at 40/38, and Ben Ray Lujan at a negative 31/40.

The conservative nature of Teague's district makes it a difficult fight for reelection, particularly against a strong candidate in his predecessor Steve Pearce. Pearce leads Teague 43-41 at this point. Pearce wins over more Democrats (18%) than Teague does Republicans (14%) and also has a 51-41 advantage with independents.

One of the numbers that best speaks to Teague's popularity is that his approval among independents is divided 41/41 while Barack Obama's is simultaneously a negative 33/57 spread. That's an indication voters are separating out their feelings about Teague from Obama to some extent, a good sign for him in this district. But it's still going to be a tough road to reelection.

Heinrich is in pretty solid shape, leading Jon Barela 45-36. He actually trails 44-31 with independents, but picks up basically the same share of the Democratic vote (73%) that Barela does of the Republican vote (74%). In a district with a heavy Democratic lean that's enough for the early lead.

It's too early to completely write Barela off though, as he has only 28% name recognition at this point. It's conceivable that his standing could improve as he becomes better known, especially if this is a district national Republicans decide they want to invest in.

Despite his negative approval numbers Lujan leads both of his Republican opponents by decent margins. It's 42-36 over Tom Mullins and 40-32 over Adam Kokesh. Lujan's approval is in negative territory because Republicans are much more united against him (71%) than Democrats are in their support for him (47%). Independents also disapprove of him by a 22/42 margin, similar to Obama's 35/54 disapproval in the district.

This is an overwhelmingly Democratic district and in most circumstances Lujan would have nothing to worry about in spite of his personal unpopularity. But the district did go Republican for a short time in the late 90s under strange circumstances- and given what happened in Massachusetts last month this election year may qualify as 'strange circumstances' as well. Lujan can't take anything for granted.

Kokesh has drawn a lot of attention from the Tea Party folks, but Mullins appears the more likely Republican nominee for now. 17% of GOP voters have a favorable opinion of him to 4% for Kokesh. With the vast majority of voters having no opinion about either of them that's certainly subject to change between now and the primary.

Between the Governor's race and the potential for some close House races, it looks to be another interesting year in New Mexico politics.

Full results here

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