While most of the recent western political attention has focused on Colorado Sen. Mark Udall (D) – the air wars with Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO-4) and their respective allies have already begun in earnest – little attention is being paid to his cousin, Sen. Tom Udall (D), from the square state directly to the south.
As an incumbent senator in 2014, not receiving any political attention is a good thing. The just-released Public Policy Polling survey (March 20-23; 674 registered New Mexico voters; 327 Democratic primary voters), the first such published New Mexico poll for this election cycle, proves that point for Sen. Udall, but not necessarily for the Democratic gubernatorial candidates.
According to this new data, the senator maintains a very comfortable lead over both of his Republican challengers, former New Mexico GOP chairman Allen Weh, and local Dona Ana Republican Party ex-chair David Clements. With a very strong 52:33 percent favorable to unfavorable job approval ratio, the senator leads Weh by an almost identical 53-33 percent split. Against Clements, the first-term incumbent fares even better, 55-33 percent.
With all of his political vital signs looking strong, Udall is in strong early position for re-election and is the least of the national Democratic Party leadership’s worries.
But, the more important race in the Land of Enchantment is the re-election of first-term Gov. Susana Martinez. A Republican woman of Hispanic descent from what can be at times a western swing state, it is a sure bet that Gov. Martinez will be on the very short list as a potential 2016 GOP Vice Presidential nominee should she post a strong re-election score later this year.
According to the new PPP results, Gov. Martinez leads all Democratic challengers, but with varying margins against the particular individuals. Her job approval ratio, though not as good as Sen. Udall’s, is strong, especially for a more high profile Republican governor in what is mostly a Democratic state. PPP finds 52 percent of the respondents approving of her performance in office as compared to 40 percent who disapprove.
Against nomination leader Gary King, the state’s attorney general who is the son of former Gov. Bruce King (D), Martinez claims a 47-42 percent advantage. She is beyond the margin of error against an opponent from the majority party with high name identification, so those are positive takes for her, but consistently falling below majority support indicates the door may be open for a potential upset.
Her numbers are substantially better against the rest of the Democratic field. She scores a 47-36 percent count over former Albuquerque city official Lawrence Rael, 48-34 percent when paired with state Sen. Howie Morales, 50-36 percent over state Sen. Linda Lopez and 48-32 percent opposite magazine publisher Alan Webber.
Turning to the subset of Democratic primary voters, it is King jumping out to a sizable lead, claiming just over one-third of the available support (34 percent). Next is Sen. Morales with 15 percent, followed by Sen. Lopez’s 13 percent, with Rael and Webber in single-digits at seven and five percent, respectively.
With Sen. Udall cruising toward re-election, the New Mexico political attention will turn toward the governor’s race, especially when considering that this particular re-election battle will carry future national political ramifications. Though Martinez is personally popular, expect a competitive general election when all of the campaigns begin to hit full stride.