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          Front Page  news  washington

Heinrich Leads House Race

By Michael Coleman
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Washington Bureau

          WASHINGTON — Rep. Martin Heinrich led the 1st Congressional District race in a new Journal Poll, but Republican challenger Jon Barela remained within striking distance.
        Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff said the Aug. 23-27 survey results represent good and bad news for the first-term incumbent, who was the first Democrat to win the Albuquerque-based district and who might suffer in the general election contest from an anti-incumbent mood.
        "The good news for Heinrich is that he's ahead," Sanderoff said. "The bad news is that he is the incumbent, and Jon Barela is just now getting himself known.
        "Some people might have expected a larger lead for the incumbent," Sanderoff said. "On top of that, you have the mood of a nation that is leaning conservative. Democrats in Congress cannot take anything for granted."
        Heinrich, first elected in 2008, had 47 percent support in the first Journal Poll on the congressional contest, compared with 41 percent for Barela. Twelve percent of likely 1st District voters surveyed were undecided or wouldn't say for whom they would vote. The districtwide results have a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
        Among the critical bloc of independent voters, Heinrich had 45 percent support, compared to 31 percent for Barela.
        That's a good sign for Heinrich, Sanderoff said.
        "Independents are skewing conservative, and Republican this election cycle," Sanderoff said. "But Heinrich at this point in time is doing well among independents. It will be a key group for him to hold onto."
        Sanderoff said that despite Heinrich's overall lead in the poll, Barela should not be discouraged.
        "I don't see this poll as bad news for Jon Barela at all," Sanderoff said. "He is down 6 points at a time when he is just beginning the awareness-and-persuasion part of his campaign. It's a not a bad place to be in, given the mood of the nation and the fact that it's still August."
        Barela was the choice of 33 percent of the Hispanic voters polled, while Heinrich was backed by 54 percent.
        "The fact that Barela has a third of the Hispanics, who tend to vote Democratic, is pretty good for him," Sanderoff said. "For Jon Barela to win, he needs to get crossover Democrats. Many of those Democrats are often Hispanics. He's got a third of them now, and that's a good place to be."
        Barela has been working hard in recent weeks to recruit Democrats to support his campaign. However, 75 percent of the Democrats surveyed in the Journal Poll said they would vote for Heinrich. Twelve percent of the Democrats said they planned to vote for Barela, and 13 percent were undecided.
        Heinrich polled better among the youngest voters surveyed. Heinrich had a 20-point lead over Barela among voters ages 18 to 34, with 56 percent expressing support for Heinrich, compared with Barela's 36 percent.
        Barela outpolled Heinrich among the oldest category of voters, ages 65 and older. Barela had 46 percent support among those voters, while Heinrich had 40 percent.
        Sanderoff said Heinrich can take some comfort in his lead in the contest so far, but he should be prepared to wage a tough campaign if he expects to hold it through Election Day.
        "Needless to say, Martin Heinrich can not take this race for granted," Sanderoff said.

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