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Udall's Lead Is Holding Steady

By Jeff Jones
Copyright © 2008 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Politics Writer

          Democrat Tom Udall has maintained a big lead over Republican Steve Pearce in the New Mexico race for U.S. Senate, according to a final Journal Poll before Tuesday's election.
        The two are vying for the seat that Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., will retire from in January after 36 years.

        Udall, the 3rd Congressional District representative from Santa Fe, had the backing of 53 percent of voters who had either already cast early ballots or were likely to vote on Tuesday, last week's survey found.
        Pearce, the 2nd Congressional District representative from Hobbs, was supported by 39 percent of the voters polled, while 8 percent remained undecided on the contest.
        The margin between the two candidates remained essentially unchanged from a Journal Poll conducted Sept. 29-Oct.2, which found Udall with a 15-point advantage over Pearce.
        Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc. in Albuquerque, said Udall had the political upper hand in several key areas of the new survey:
        • Udall was faring slightly better among Democrats than Pearce was among Republicans: 83 percent of Democrats favored Udall, while 79 percent of GOP members backed Pearce.
        • Udall was supported by 49 percent of independent voters; Pearce by 35 percent.
        • Udall had a substantial advantage in the Albuquerque metro area, New Mexico's most populous region — 60 percent of voters there backed Udall compared to 35 percent for Pearce.
        "Pearce has not peeled off a sufficient number of Democrats," Sanderoff said. "In conjunction with Udall performing really well among registered independents and in the Albuquerque area, that's the key."
        Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in New Mexico. Sanderoff has said Pearce is more strongly conservative than the more moderate Republicans who have enjoyed recent statewide electoral success.
        "This is a tough year for conservative Republicans to be running in this nation," Sanderoff said.
        Udall outpolled Pearce among both younger and older voters, with an advantage hovering around 20 points among voters ages 18-34 and those ages 50 and older.
        Sanderoff said voters ages 35-49 have been the most likely New Mexicans to back Republicans this year. But even in that age group, Pearce managed only a 45-percent-to-45-percent split with Udall.
        "Among his best age group, he's just breaking even," Sanderoff said.
        Anglo voters slightly favored Pearce: 48 percent said they backed him, compared with 46 percent for Udall.
        Udall far outpaced Pearce among Hispanic voters. Sixty-eight percent of those voters favored Udall, compared with 21 percent for Pearce.
        Hispanics make up 44 percent and Anglos 42.8 percent of New Mexico's population, according to the U.S. Census.
        A bright spot for Pearce showed up in oil-and-gas-rich northwest New Mexico: 60 percent of voters there favored the former Hobbs oilman, while 29 percent backed Udall.
        While Pearce also had an advantage among voters on the state's conservative east side, Sanderoff said the margin there — 48 percent for Pearce, 40 percent for Udall — doesn't approach the lopsided numbers that winning Republicans usually garner in that region.
        Udall's 3rd Congressional District includes several east-side cities including Clovis, Portales, Tucumcari and Clayton. And Sanderoff said Udall's popularity in the 3rd District that he has represented for the past decade, with those cities included, has helped to limit Pearce's overall advantage on the east side.
        Voters who identified themselves as conservative strongly favored Pearce over Udall, 70 percent to 24 percent. Among self-identified liberals, 89 percent backed Udall and 6 percent supported Pearce.
        Most voters who identified themselves as moderates preferred Udall over Pearce: 62 percent to 28 percent.