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2nd District Race in a Virtual Tie

By Dan Boyd
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer

          The showdown in New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District between Democratic Rep. Harry Teague and Republican challenger Steve Pearce is shaping up as a nail-biter.
        Pearce, who held the southern New Mexico seat in the U.S. House from 2003 until 2009, has caught up to first-term incumbent Teague, according to a new Journal Poll.
        Forty-five percent of the 2nd District voters surveyed Sept. 27-30 said they would vote for Pearce, while 44 percent supported Teague. The districtwide survey results have a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
        "We've got a classic close race on our hands," Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff said.
        Undecided Democratic and independent voters could be pivotal in determining the race's outcome. Most Republican voters surveyed appeared to have already made up their minds.
        Just 4 percent of Republicans polled were undecided or wouldn't say for whom they planned to vote. Meanwhile, 15 percent of Democrats and 17 percent of independents were undecided or wouldn't say.
        "They're going to have to cater to the minds and hearts of undecided Democrats and independents," Sanderoff said of a road map to victory for the two candidates.
        Teague, the first Democrat to win election in the 2nd Congressional District in 28 years, appears to be hanging tough amidst a national political climate that favors conservatives and political newcomers.
        "He obviously has some personal rapport with voters," Sanderoff said.
        However, Pearce has gained ground on Teague since the last Journal Poll, which was conducted in August.
        In the previous poll, Teague had 45 percent support to Pearce's 42 percent support.
        Both candidates are well-known in the district and have backgrounds in the oil and natural gas industry.
        "I don't think the anti-incumbent mood helps either of them," Sanderoff said. "They're running by criticizing the records of their opponents rather than touting their own records or vast experience."
        Pearce's campaign recently aired a television ad attacking Teague for cutting off his employees' health care four days before Christmas 2009.
        Teague has run attack ads of his own, targeting Pearce's record on veterans issues and his vote against a pay raise for American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
        The two candidates have also clashed on the issue of whether Pearce supported legislation that would have put federal land in Doña Ana County up for sale.
        Pearce, a businessman and former Air Force pilot, had the support of 48 percent of independent voters surveyed in the Journal Poll, while 35 percent said they would vote for Teague, a former Lea County commissioner.
        The poll also showed 82 percent of Republican voters backing Pearce and 14 percent supporting Teague. Seventy percent of Democratic voters surveyed said they would vote for Teague and 16 percent said they would vote for Pearce.
        "The thing that's keeping Teague in this race is he's pulling a similar amount of Republican support as Pearce is Democrat support," Sanderoff said.
        Male voters surveyed were slightly more likely to support Pearce — 48 percent to 42 percent — while female voters were slightly more likely to back Teague.
        Among Hispanics, 59 percent said they would vote for Teague while 29 percent said they would back Pearce.
        In contrast, 54 percent of Anglo voters polled supported Pearce and 37 percent supported Teague.
        The Journal Poll surveyed 402 likely voters in the 2nd Congressional District. Voters were interviewed districtwide Sept. 27-30 by Research & Polling Inc. The margin error for the full scientific sample of voters is plus or minus 5 percentage points. Voters were asked who they would vote for at the time of their interview.

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