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Romero 1 Point Behind Wilson in Poll

By John Fleck
Journal Staff Writer
    Democrat Richard Romero has pulled to within a point of incumbent Republican Heather Wilson in the race for New Mexico's 1st Congressional District, according to a Journal poll.
    Three-term incumbent Wilson defeated Romero two years ago by 10 percentage points and is in her first close contest for the Albuquerque-centered district, said Brian Sanderoff of Research and Polling Inc., which conducted the poll.
    "We've got an interesting race," Sanderoff said.
    Forty-five percent of likely voters surveyed favored Wilson, while 44 percent favored Romero. Eleven percent told the pollsters they were undecided or declined to state their preference.
    A month ago, Wilson had a 49-43 edge over Romero.
    The new survey's margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.
    The poll, taken over three nights beginning Oct. 1, may in part reflect a coattail effect, coming in the aftermath of Thursday's presidential debates, Sanderoff said.
    He said the "majority of Americans feel that Kerry won, and Romero may be benefiting a few points from that."
    Wilson's strongest support came from voters over 50, while Romero was popular with those younger than 50.
    Wilson did better than Romero in the tough task of getting voters to cross party lines, with 19 percent of Democrats supporting her, compared with just 10 percent of Republicans supporting Romero.
    But in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans 47 percent to 34 percent, any Republican candidate must win over a disproportionate number of Democrats to win, and Sanderoff said Wilson is close to failing at that.
    Wilson "has anchored her Republican base more so than Romero has consolidated his, but there are a lot fewer Republicans out there than there are Democrats," Sanderoff said.
    Ethnicity does not seem to be a major factor currently, Sanderoff said. Romero held a slight lead among Hispanic voters and Wilson held a slight lead among Anglo voters, but the margins were small. Hispanics tend to favor Democratic candidates and Anglos tend to support Republicans. "Ethnicity is not as big a factor as it usually is," Sanderoff said.
    That could change, however.
    "If Romero finds a way of consolidating his base among Hispanics, he could pull off an upset here," Sanderoff said.
    For the poll, 369 likely voters were interviewed by phone Oct. 1-3.