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Martinez Pushing Toward 'Magic Number'

By Sean Olson
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer

          Republican gubernatorial nominee Susana Martinez is nearing the "magic number" of 50 percent support among likely New Mexico voters, with a month left before the Nov. 2 election, a new Journal Poll found.
        Martinez led Democrat Diane Denish by 6 points in the survey overall — 47 percent to 41 percent with 12 percent undecided if the election were held at the time of the Sept. 27-30 poll.
        Her lead grew to 49 percent to 42 percent when "leaners" — undecided voters leaning toward voting for one candidate — were included and was even wider, at 49 percent to 39 percent, among those surveyed who voted in both the 2006 and 2008 general elections.
        Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff says those regular voters are the most likely to participate in this year's general election.
        "When one looks deeper into the numbers, Susana's lead tends to increase," Sanderoff said.
        Midterm elections, such as this year's, historically have lower turnouts than presidential elections, Sanderoff said, and that means Denish could lose some support from Democratic voters, who outnumber Republicans and independents in New Mexico, if they don't turn out.
        "If turnout is low in this election, then Martinez's lead will widen," he said. "For Denish to narrow this gap, her campaign must increase the turnout of at-risk Democratic voters significantly."
        A Journal Poll taken one month ago also found Martinez apparently leading, 45 percent to 39 percent.
        Sanderoff said Martinez is edging closer to the 50 percent mark, called the "magic number" because exceeding 50 percent support on Election Day means that candidate wins.
        "When you get close to 50 percent, with 12 percent of voters undecided, it's a good place to be," Sanderoff said, referring to Martinez. There are, of course, no undecided voters on Election Day.
        The campaign
        The gubernatorial campaigns have been on the offensive in the past two months, with both candidates funding a barrage of attack ads against one another, mostly focusing on undermining each other's integrity.
        Denish has also launched ads attacking Martinez on education, especially statements Martinez made during the primary election campaign in support of private school vouchers. Despite those comments, Martinez insists that she would only give tax credits to people who donate money to private school scholarship funds and would not cut state education funding.
        Martinez has countered that eight years of Gov. Bill Richardson and Denish efforts have produced dismal test scores and graduation rates.
        The candidates have spent millions getting out their messages.
        Denish spent about $1.7 million from June 26 to Sept. 8, according to the last campaign finance disclosure. Groups such as the National Education Association and the Democratic Governor's Association have independently spent hundreds of thousands of additional dollars supporting her.
        Martinez spent about $1.3 million during the same period.
        Advertising spending by both candidates appears to have accelerated since Sept. 8.
        Sanderoff said Martinez has been more effective in reaching voters with her campaign messages.
        "Susana's media strategy of attempting to paint Denish as being somehow connected to corruption has depressed support for Denish," he said. "It's worked."
        On the other side, Denish has not given voters a clear picture of who she would be as governor, Sanderoff said.
        "A campaign needs a common theme or message, and I don't think we know what it is with Denish," he said.
        More findings
        Other significant findings of the latest Journal Poll on the gubernatorial race:
        • Martinez led among Anglo voters with 58 percent support compared with Denish's 31 percent. Hispanic voters were more likely to support Denish, who had 57 percent support, but Martinez drew more support among Hispanics, 29 percent, than most Republican candidates ordinarily would, according to Sanderoff.
        • Martinez had a 48 percent to 39 percent lead among men and appeared to lead among women, with 45 percent support to Denish's 42 percent.
        • Eighty-three percent of Republicans said they would vote for Martinez, compared with just 5 percent for Denish. Democrats were less unified, with 68 percent for Denish and 19 percent for Martinez.
        • Martinez had a wide lead among independents, who favored her by 52 percent to 33 percent.
        • Denish was either tied with Martinez or led among voters who had not participated in elections in the general elections of 2004, 2006 or 2008. Martinez had leads of 7 or 8 percentage points among registered voters that participated in those elections.
        • Martinez had more support than Denish in the eastern, southwestern and Albuquerque regions of the state. Denish led in the north-central part of the state, a traditional Democratic stronghold. The candidates were nearly even in the northwest region.
        The Journal Poll surveyed 941 registered, likely voters across New Mexico in telephone interviews. The interviews were conducted between Sept. 27-30 by Research & Polling Inc. The margin of sampling error for the statewide, scientific sample of voters is plus or minus 3 percentage points, but that number grows for subsamples of the polling results, such as support among Hispanics and Anglo voters.

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