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Martinez Leads by 10 Points; 1 in 4 Democrats Crosses Over

By Sean Olson
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer

          Republican Susana Martinez had a double-digit lead over Democratic Lt. Gov. Diane Denish heading into New Mexico's gubernatorial election Tuesday, a new Journal Poll found.
        Martinez's lead had widened to 10 percentage points compared with the last poll, in late September, when she had a six-point lead.
        One of the reasons for Martinez's lead was that one-fourth of Democrats surveyed crossed over and said they would vote for her.
        "Denish needs to somehow get a tremendous amount of supporters on Election Day in order to impact Martinez's lead," said Brian Sanderoff, president of Research and Polling Inc., which conducted the survey.
        Martinez, the state district attorney in Doña Ana County, was the choice of 52 percent likely voters, while Denish had 42 percent and 6 percent were undecided.
        The statewide telephone survey of 1,003 likely voters was conducted Wednesday and Thursday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Voters who said they had already cast ballots were asked which candidate they voted for. Others were asked which gubernatorial candidate they would vote for at the time of the poll.
        The gubernatorial candidates' lieutenant governor running mates, Republican John Sanchez and Democrat Brian Colón, who are running as ticket members with Martinez and Denish, were not included in the governor race question.
        Gap widens
        In the Journal Poll conducted Sept. 27-30, Martinez had 47 percent support, compared with 41 percent for Denish. Twelve percent of voters were undecided in the previous poll, compared with 6 percent in the latest survey.
        In the most recent poll, when leaners — or those who were undecided but favored one candidate over another — were included in the results, Martinez had 53 percent support and Denish had 43 percent.
        "Martinez has been pounding Diane Denish for her association with the status quo and Governor Bill Richardson's administration, and the strategy has been effective," Sanderoff said.
        "She's also been capitalizing on the anti-incumbent mood," Sanderoff said, noting that mood favors out-of-power Republicans.
        The majority of undecided voters in the Journal Poll were independents, or voters who declined to state a party affiliation when they registered, and Democrats. Martinez led among independents.
        But the undecided Democrats combined with the independents "gives Denish only a flicker of hope," Sanderoff said.
        Martinez had solid support among members of her own party, while Democrats were more likely to cross party lines, the Journal Poll found.
        Ninety-one percent of Republicans supported Martinez and 6 percent backed Denish. Meanwhile, 69 percent of Democrats supported Denish and 25 percent supported Martinez.
        Denish had 56 percent support among Hispanic voters, who often lean toward Democratic candidates, while Martinez had 37 percent support.
        Sixty-one percent of Anglo voters supported Martinez while 35 percent supported Denish.
        Denish had a 60 percent to 35 percent advantage over Martinez in the north-central region of New Mexico, but Martinez led by almost identical margins in the northwest and east side regions.
        Martinez also led Denish in the Albuquerque area and in the south-southwest region.
        Sanderoff said Denish needs to win in Albuquerque, her home base, to make up for the leads Martinez had opened in other areas.
        "It appears that will be very difficult," Sanderoff said.
        Sanderoff said that although Martinez's message seems to have been more effective in swaying voters, Denish performed well in the last debate and has improved her campaign message.
        "What Denish has done in the last two or three weeks has been more of a mainstream Democratic message," Sanderoff said.

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