Thanks, Albuquerque Journal, for providing the best snapshot to date of New Mexicans’ political leanings this election cycle. Not everything they asked likely voters about is on this year’s general election ballots, but they certainly play into the equation.
Last week’s release of Research & Polling Inc.’s New Mexico polling data, collected Sept. 27-29 for the Journal, shows the presidential race tightening into a three-person contest, the governor’s approval ratings slipping below 50 percent, support for legalizing marijuana growing toward a supermajority, and party politics still alive and well in the northern and southern reaches of our state.
In the race for the presidency, the Journal poll had Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump 35 percent to 31 percent in a four-person race, with Gary Johnson polling at 24 percent and Jill Stein at 2 percent. The statewide poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 points, so it could be even tighter, or looser, than the numbers indicate.
Nationally, as it stands now, Johnson’s not going to win a single state. His best shot might be right here in his home state of New Mexico.
Of course, that too is a long shot, but given the fact that this state reflects the national sentiment that the country’s moving in the wrong direction (63 percent of the New Mexicans polled say so), and that we know Johnson better than the rest of the country, this may indeed be the Libertarian Party ticket’s best chance at actually winning a few electoral votes.
As a result, I suspect we’ll see Johnson campaigning here more in the remaining days of this election. If he won this state with a plurality of voters, our former two-term governor could be a spoiler for Clinton, who will need every electoral vote she can muster to ensure a win over Trump.
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Republicans should be breathing a sigh of relief that legalization of recreational marijuana won’t be on the state’s ballot this time around. The Journal poll found 61 percent of likely voters in New Mexico favor full legalization, and such a ballot issue would have increased voter turnout, which typically favors Democrats.
Maybe that’s contributing to Gov. Susana Martinez’s slide in popularity, as the poll also found her approval rating dropped to 42 percent. The governor opposes legalization, but we need to paint her waning popularity with a broader brush. More than any one issue, said R&P pollster Brian Sanderoff, it’s the economy that’s pushing her popularity down.
With an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent, New Mexico had the second worst jobless rate in the country in August—only Alaska’s was higher. Coupled with the usual drop in popularity that comes in a second term, that’s reason enough to become dissatisfied with the governor’s job performance.
Of course, legalizing pot is as much an economic issue as it is anything else. With Colorado experiencing a huge economic boost from its burgeoning legal marijuana industry, it’s clear there’s big money to be made from legalization, something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by others around the country. Five other states will be voting this year on full legalization—including three western states (California, Nevada and Arizona)—and four others will decide on whether to legalize marijuana for medicinal sale and use.
Such measures bode well for Johnson, a longtime advocate for full legalization, and to a lesser extent for Democrats, who have warmed up to the idea of legalization more so than Republicans.
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Then there’s this year’s race for New Mexico Secretary of State, of particular importance because of Dianna Duran’s resignation amid corruption charges, and because that’s the office that keeps our elections on the up-and-up. In the SOS race, the Journal poll showed Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver with a sizable 45-31 percent lead over Republican Nora Espinoza.
Not surprisingly, Toulouse Oliver’s strongest support is in the northern parts of the state, where the Dems dominate local politics, while Espinoza’s popularity is in the southeast, a decidedly GOP stronghold. Traditional party politics will decide that race, almost assuredly in Toulouse Oliver’s favor.
In this unconventional election year, something as predictable as the secretary of state’s race sort of stands out. As for just about everything else, we won’t know until Wednesday, Nov. 9, when this election will finally be over and done with.
Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange and editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.