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Analysis: Obama Roars to NM Win with Hispanics, Albuquerque

By Barry Massey
Associated Press
      Hispanics and the Albuquerque area delivered the knockout punch for Barack Obama in New Mexico.
    Hispanics across New Mexico came home to Democrats and their nominee in the general election, after a significant share had strayed into the Republican column four years ago.
    Historically a Democratic voting bloc, Hispanics demonstrated in their more than 2-to-1 support for Obama that they're positioned as a potent political force in future elections. Hispanics are the fastest-growing minority group in the nation.
    Statewide, about 69 percent of Hispanics backed Obama, according to an exit poll of New Mexico voters conducted for The Associated Press. They represented 41 percent of the voters — up from about a third in the 2004 presidential election.
    "This is important not just for the election but also for the future of the Democratic Party in New Mexico because the Hispanic population will continue to grow," Gov. Bill Richardson said Wednesday.
    Four years ago, President Bush peeled off 44 percent of Hispanic voters in New Mexico from Democrat John Kerry, according to exit polls.
    Richardson and House Speaker Ben Lujan, a Santa Fe Democrat, said Obama's economic message and focus on the middle class made a difference in appealing to Hispanics.
    "We don't have a big percentage of millionaires," Lujan said of Hispanics, who account for about 40 percent of the state's voting age population.
    Richardson said Obama "spoke to Hispanics, not as a voting bloc, and not just addressing immigration and civil rights, but he addressed Hispanics as Americans seeking the American dream."
    Statewide, about 55 percent of voters in New Mexico considered the economy as the most important issue facing the nation. Among Hispanics, however, 62 percent held that view.
    Income helps explain the power of the economy in this year's election. About half of Hispanic voters had incomes under $50,000 according to exit polls. Forty-four percent of non-Hispanic white voters — so-called Anglos in New Mexico — fell into that working class income group. Obama prevailed among both groups, but he did better among Hispanics voters in that income range. They supported him 3-to-1.
    The governor gave Hispanics much of the credit for Obama's win along with the candidate's voter registration and get-out-the-vote operations. American Indians and young voters — those under 30 — also contributed to the Democrat's victory. Indians backed him 4-to-1.
    Obama's hefty support among Hispanics and Indians offset McCain's advantage among white voters, of which 56 percent backed the Republican. No Democrat has carried a majority of New Mexico's white voters in presidential elections at least through 1992, according to exit polls. Kerry ran the strongest and Obama roughly matched that.
    Young voters accounted for a fifth of New Mexico voters and they favored Obama almost 3-to-1. New voters — an overwhelming majority under age 30 — flocked to Obama. Almost three-quarters of new voters were Hispanic and Indian.
    Geographically, Bernalillo County was the showstopper. It provided a 58,000-vote margin for Obama — more than five times larger than Kerry's edge four years ago in the state's most populous county. In doing so, the Albuquerque area ended any chance of a win for McCain, who was unable to duplicate President Bush's feat in 2004 of mobilizing GOP-leaning voters in southern and eastern New Mexico. This year, a quarter of conservatives in the southern region defected for Obama along with three-fifths of moderates.


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