Sen. Tom Udall has a strong lead over Republican challenger Allen Weh early in their U.S. Senate contest, with 53 percent of likely voters saying they would vote to re-elect the Democratic incumbent, a Journal Poll found.
Weh was backed by 35 percent of the proven voters in the statewide poll. Another 11 percent of voters were undecided on the race, which will be decided Nov. 4.
“Allen Weh has a big challenge on his hands here,” said Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc.
“Tom Udall has been around a long time,” Sanderoff said. “People know who he is, and he’s demonstrating a great deal of strength in this race.”
Udall was first elected to the Senate in 2008. He previously served five terms as a U.S. House member, representing the state’s northern 3rd Congressional District, and two terms as the New Mexico attorney general.
Weh, a retired Marine colonel, is a former chairman of the state Republican Party and the owner of an Albuquerque-based air charter company.
Contributing to Udall’s advantage in the Senate contest is strong support among Democratic voters, who represent 47 percent of voter registrations in the state, Sanderoff noted.
Appealing to the base
Seventy-nine percent of Democrats said they would vote for Udall, the poll found, and 9 percent said they would vote for Weh.
Eleven percent of both Republican and Democrats remained undecided.
“Udall has more Republican vote than Weh has Democratic vote,” Sanderoff said. “That’s not the right curve for a Republican to win. A Republican needs to pick up a lot more Democratic votes than they lose (Republican) because of the sheer proportions of the voter population.”
Udall also has an advantage among independent voters, according to the poll. Sixty-two percent of voters who decline to state a party affiliation (DTS), or so-called independents, said they would vote for Udall. Twenty-six percent of independents said they would vote for Weh. Twelve percent were undecided.
Udall’s support among Hispanic voters was strong in the Journal Poll. Seventy percent of Hispanic voters said they would vote for Udall, compared with 17 percent of Hispanics who preferred Weh. Fourteen percent of Hispanic voters were undecided.
Weh’s level of support from Hispanic voters contrasts sharply with Hispanic support for Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, the nation’s first female Hispanic governor. Martinez had support from 36 percent of Hispanic voters, the Journal Poll found.
Weh, however, had an advantage among Anglo voters in the poll, with 48 percent supporting Weh and 43 percent backing Udall. Nine percent were undecided.
Udall led in other areas of the state.
Udall is “not winning conservative rural areas, but not losing them by the kind of numbers that would allow Allen Weh to make it into a more competitive race,” Sanderoff said.
Meanwhile, Udall has established strong voter bases in Albuquerque and northern New Mexico, with the northern area being the core of the district he represented as a congressman.
In the state’s largest metro area, Udall led Weh 55 percent to 35 percent. In Democratic-leaning northern New Mexico, which includes Santa Fe, Udall’s lead over Weh grew to 74 percent to 19 percent.
The head-to-head results for the U.S. Senate race poll amount to 99 percent because of rounding.
The Journal Poll is based on a scientific, statewide sample of 606 voters who voted in the 2010 general election and said they were likely to vote again this year.
The poll was conducted Aug. 12-14. The full voter sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The margin of error grows for subsamples.
Research & Polling Inc. generated a stratified random sample in which each New Mexico county received a representative proportion based on turnout patterns in the 2010 general election for governor.
When necessary, RPI weights the surveys to reflect the known distribution of age, gender and party affiliation, based on the 2010 election. Racial and ethnic proportions are based on RPI estimates of turnout patterns.
All interviews were conducted by live, professional interviewers, with multiple callbacks to households that did not initially answer the phone.
Both landlines (70 percent) and cellphone numbers (30 percent) of proven general election voters were used.
Voters who reported they are unlikely to vote in the coming election were screened out.