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A Very Close Race

One of the closely watched races in the House is New Mexico-01 (Heather Wilson‘s seat). Some new numbers out in the Albuquerque Journal’s poll there show the race very close.

While Wilson is currently leading the Democrat by 3 points, that’s not much. Still, the district is always close, so it’s not a great surprise. There’s also a 4.8 point MOE, so she could be up more, but she may also be behind. Digging a little deeper, and looking at the last cycle for some comparison, the numbers are definitely off a bit for Heather, but there’s no reason to throw in the towel just yet.

The good news for Wilson is in the number of Democrats who like Heather and the number who don’t like Patricia Madrid. The soft support within the party is a real downside for Patsy. At this point in the 2004 cycle, Richard Romero was pulling 4 points better with Democrats despite having lost to Wilson by ten points two years earlier. Madrid should be in much better shape with her own team. Her disapproval among Ds is 20%. That’s bad news in a district where ticket splitters make up a good chunk of the deciding factor.

Heather has lost some support within her party as well (she’s six points lower than she was in 2004). She’s also dropped four points among Democrats, while Patricia is up 3 points with the GOP (versus Romero). The real trouble for Heather lies in the Hispanic community, though. Madrid is nearly 20 points ahead with Hispanics (a bloc that hurt Romero two years ago). She’s running 8 points ahead of Romero’s benchmark.

The downside to polling – and especially to comparing poll numbers like this – is the unique nature of every race. At this point two years ago, people thought Romero had a chance and the race might be as close as a point or two. He ended up falling apart and Heather won by nine. Patricia could have a foot-in-mouth moment and say something that knocks her out of the race, but I doubt it.

If Madrid can continue to improve her lead with Hispanics, and shore up the sentiment within her own party, she could make a real run at Wilson. For Wilson, it may be a case of slow and steady winning the race. She’s currently driving the agenda with charges that Madrid ignored a brewing scandal in the treasurer’s office. That’s keeping the focus on Madrid, but isn’t likely to last as an issue. They better have something better to hit her with in October.

Madrid seems to be pulling her charges out of the research shop. Her ads are hitting Heather on two fronts – taking money from the oil and gas industry and supporting Bush. The oil ties are a sure loser for Madrid. She’s also not going to get far by trying to paint Heather with the Bush brush. Heather made waves by bucking the President on domestic surveillance, so that dog only hunts for the party faithful. She’ll need something better if she wants to seal the deal.

It’s an interesting race to watch. Unfortunately, it’s 2000 miles away from the first polls to close, so the suspense will likely be over by the time results are in for NM. My guess however? As goes this race, so goes Congress.

Written by Michael Turk