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Sunday, October 05, 2008
Obama Has 5 Points on McCain, N.M. Poll Finds
By Jeff Jones
Copyright © 2008 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Politics Writer
Barack Obama appears to be closing in on New Mexico's five electoral votes in the presidential contest, a new Journal Poll found.
The Democratic candidate had a 5-point edge over Republican John McCain in the statewide survey of likely voters, conducted Sept. 29 through Oct. 2.
Obama's advantage over McCain in New Mexico was even larger among Hispanic, independent and younger voters.
Obama had the support of 45 percent of all likely voters surveyed in the first Journal Poll on the general election, while McCain was supported by 40 percent. An additional 14 percent were undecided.
"Barack Obama has been on a roll in the last 10 days to two weeks," said Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff, pointing out that Obama was also leading in the polls nationally last week. "New Mexico mirrors the nation."
But Sanderoff added: "This thing is not over."
Plenty can change between now and Election Day on Nov. 4, he said. It will be a frantic month, with White House contenders debating two more times, bombarding the TV airwaves with ads and making additional campaign stops in New Mexico.
Seventy-three percent of the Democrats surveyed statewide backed Obama in the contest with McCain, while 16 percent of Democrats were undecided on their choice for the White House.
McCain had even stronger support among members of his own party: 85 percent backed McCain, with 10 percent undecided.
Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in New Mexico. Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc. in Albuquerque, said Republicans win big races in the state by wooing independents and bringing Democrats across the fence.
Obama had a 15-point edge among independents: 44 percent supported him, compared with 29 percent for McCain. But 22 percent of independents were undecided.
"For John McCain to win, he needs to get his half of the independent vote," Sanderoff said. "The jury is still out on whether his maverick message will prevail. The good news for McCain is, 16 percent of Democrats are undecided: They evidently have some reservations about Obama."
The Journal Poll found a large advantage for Obama among Hispanic voters, the majority of whom are registered Democrats: 62 percent of Hispanics surveyed favored Obama, while 17 percent backed McCain and 21 percent were undecided.
President Bush won New Mexico during his successful 2004 Republican re-election bid, and one key for him that year was his ability to attract votes from some Hispanics. Sanderoff estimated that Bush won 38 percent of the Hispanic vote that year.
Hillary Clinton had strong Hispanic voter support in New Mexico and narrowly defeated Obama in New Mexico's Feb. 5 Democratic presidential caucus. Political observers have wondered aloud whether Hispanic voters who backed Clinton would throw their support squarely behind Obama after she dropped out.
Obama last month headlined a large outdoor rally in Española in hopes of cementing the vote among northern New Mexico Hispanics, and he made a direct appeal to them: "Start flexing your muscles," he said.
With a month to go before Election Day, "it looks like the Hispanics supporting Hillary are coming home to Obama," Sanderoff said. "Bush was able to cut into that block, and win New Mexico, four years ago. McCain has a ways to go."
Obama's political "ground game" — his get-out-the-vote effort — has focused in part on finding and registering new young voters. The Journal Poll found that 51 percent of those ages 18-34 backed him, compared with 36 percent for McCain.
McCain had an advantage among voters ages 35-49: 46 percent sided with him, compared with 33 percent for Obama.
But Obama had an edge among older voters: 48 percent of those ages 50 and older backed him, while just under 40 percent of the older voters sided with McCain.
"McCain's strength has been among seniors," Sanderoff said. But "as Obama begins to open up a lead, both nationally and in New Mexico, he's beginning to (grab the advantage) among seniors."
McCain and Obama split support when it came to education levels in the Journal Poll.
Obama far outpaced McCain, 60 percent to 29 percent, among those whose education includes college graduate work or a graduate degree. He also topped McCain, 53 percent to 36 percent, among those who have no more than a high-school diploma.
But McCain polled higher than Obama, 45 percent to 34 percent, among those with some college experience. He also edged Obama, 45 percent to 41 percent, among those with four-year college degrees.
Regionally, Obama was supported by 51 percent of the voters in the Albuquerque metro area, while McCain had the support of 34 percent of voters there. Obama did even better in the heavily Democratic north-central region of the state, outpolling McCain 76 percent to 12 percent.
"To win, John McCain must do better in Albuquerque," Sanderoff said of the state's population center. When the votes start rolling in, "he can't lose by this kind of margin."
The tables were turned in the more conservative eastern and southern regions of New Mexico.
McCain had a 64 percent to 23 percent lead on the east side, and a 20-point advantage — 50 percent to 30 percent — down south.
One strategy of the McCain campaign is to paint Obama as someone who does not share the values of the average voter: A pro-McCain TV ad airing in New Mexico characterizes Obama as an out-of-touch liberal, and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has made direct appeals to "normal Joe Six-Pack American."
However, a Journal Poll question found Obama faring better than McCain in New Mexico on the values question.
When asked, "Which presidential candidate comes closer to reflecting your values?" 48 percent of those surveyed said Obama, while 41 percent said McCain.
The Journal Poll on the presidential contest is based on telephone interviews Sept. 29-Oct. 2 with 659 registered voters statewide who said they are likely to vote on Nov. 4. Survey results based on this scientific sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
Results for the values question, for which 400 registered, likely voters were interviewed statewide, have a slightly larger margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
The survey was conducted by Research and Polling Inc. of Albuquerque.