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Monday, August 30, 2010
Teague, Pearce Running Close Race
By Michael Coleman
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — Independent voters in New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District — who could hold the key to the race — were almost evenly divided in a Journal Poll that found a close general election contest developing between Democratic Rep. Harry Teague and Republican challenger Steve Pearce.
Teague, serving his first term in Congress, was the first Democrat to win election to southern New Mexico's 2nd District congressional seat in 28 years. He is trying to fend off a challenge from Pearce, a Republican who held the same southern New Mexico seat from 2003 until 2009.
Thirteen percent of likely voters remained undecided in the race, the Journal Poll found.
Teague had the support of 37 percent of voters who described themselves as independent, or who declined to state a political party when they registered to vote. Thirty-three percent of the independents said they would support Pearce.
Districtwide results of the Journal Poll, conducted Aug. 23-27 by Research and Polling Inc. of Albuquerque, have a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff said Teague should be pleased at his level of support among independents, given a current national political climate that probably favors Republicans.
"In so many districts across the nation, independents are skewing Republican, and here we see that they are splitting pretty evenly among Teague and Pearce," Sanderoff said. "It's fair to say independents will be critical to the outcome of the election. They can be the deciding factor in a close race."
Sanderoff said Teague's slight edge in the survey — he polled 45 percent support among all 2nd District voters surveyed, compared with 42 percent for Pearce — is also good news for the incumbent, considering the current national political mood.
"Harry Teague surprised the world two years ago when he won in a Republican district," Sanderoff said. "Now we see that he is still hanging in there against a former incumbent in a conservative year in a conservative district. Basically, we have an incumbent running against a former incumbent — both of them are well-known — and the fact that Teague has an ever-so slight lead is encouraging for him."
But he said the number of undecided voters means the race could still break either way.
"This is a very close race at this time, with 13 percent undecided," Sanderoff said.
The poll showed that Pearce had the support of 12 percent of registered Democrats, while Teague had 76 percent of the Democratic support. Teague had 9 percent of the Republican support, while Pearce had 81 percent. Ten percent of Republicans and Democrats said they were still undecided about the race.
Sanderoff said Pearce likely needs to boost his Democratic support to win — in a district where, despite its Republican leanings, Democrats outnumber them.
"Normally, you would have expected Pearce to be picking up more Democrats than those 12 percent," Sanderoff said. "He still may, because there are still some (Democrats) undecided."
Pearce polled better among people under 50, while Teague had more support among voters over 50.
Among Hispanic voters in the 2nd District, more of whom are Democrat than Republican, Pearce had 24 percent support, compared with 59 percent support for Teague.
"Pearce has a quarter of the Hispanic support," Sanderoff said. "That's impressive and he needs to hold it."
Sanderoff stressed that the race is only now entering its most important phase, when media advertising and campaign appearances will begin to saturate voter consciousness. But Teague is in a good spot heading into the home stretch, he said.
"Teague seems to have some staying power, and it appears that it will be a close race," he said. "Some people wouldn't have been shocked if Pearce was ahead by 10 points, but there is something about Harry Teague — he obviously has some personal popularity. But 2010 is so much different than 2008, and all the things that worked in Teague's favor have now reversed. Pearce will definitely benefit from the change in political mood."