Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bingaman would be safe, open seat potentially competitive

If Jeff Bingaman runs for reelection Democrats don't have to worry about keeping their Senate seat in New Mexico. In an open seat situation the party would still be in pretty decent position to keep it but a Gary Johnson candidacy on the Republican side could make things interesting.

Bingaman is one of the most popular Senators in the country, with 56% of voters approving of him to only 27% who disapprove. He's pretty universally well liked by the Democratic base, independents give him good marks by a 50/21 margin, and his 19% approval with Republicans isn't great but is still better than a lot of Democratic Senators get across party lines.

We tested former Governor Gary Johnson, Congressman Steve Pearce, and former Congresswoman Heather Wilson against Bingaman. He easily dispatches all of them, leading Johnson by 11 points at 51-40, Wilson by 19 points at 56-37, and Pearce by 23 points at 57-34.

Bingaman's lead over Pearce is consistent with the margin Tom Udall won by in 2008. Pearce simply is not an appealing statewide candidate- only 35% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of him compared to 44% with an unfavorable one. Wilson's a pretty weak potential candidate as well with 39% of voters rating her favorably to 45% with a negative opinion.

Johnson is by far the most intriguing potential entrant on the Republican side. He's popular with 44% of voters holding a positive view of him to just 32% with a negative one. What's unique about his numbers is that there's almost no variation across party lines- 46% of independents, 44% of Democrats, and 43% of Republicans see him favorably. His unusual views on some issues have had the effect of making him unusually popular for a Republican with Democrats, but also unusually unpopular for a Republican with Republicans. If he could get through a Republican primary his crossover support might make him a pretty formidable candidate but doing that could be an uphill battle.

If Republicans want to win the state in an open seat situation Johnson might be the way to go though- he leads both Democratic House members in hypothetical contests, 44-43 over Martin Heinrich and 45-40 over Ben Ray Lujan. The more traditional potential candidates of Pearce and Wilson meanwhile would start out well behind the Democratic duo. Heinrich leads Pearce 53-38 and Wilson 50-39 in head to head match ups and Lujan leads Pearce 49-37 and Wilson 48-40.

With the weight of Bill Richardson off Democrats' backs and a 2012 electorate that's likely to look a lot more like 2008 than 2010, New Mexico is probably going to be a pretty tough state for Republicans next year. But if Bingaman retires and Johnson can somehow snag the Republican nomination it could make for an interesting Senate race.

Full results here

16 comments:

DBL said...

55% Democrats? Seriously? In a state where in top Democratic years it's been 41% and 44% Democratic? In 2008 it was D+16. You have D+26. Why does "we don't adjust for party" seem to mean "all of our samples are ridiculously heavy on Democrats?"

Kevin said...

Johnson should give up his futile Presidential run and consider a Senate run instead. He might have a shot there.

Anonymous said...

You'd be right, DBL, if all their polls actually were "ridiculously heavy on Democrats". You are right that this is definitely tilted too far to the left, but you ignore the samples of almost every poll taken before this, where the sample electorates have been older, more conservative, and more Republican than what the electorate was in 2008.

Tom Jensen said...

This sample voted for Obama by 16 points, very similar to his 2008 margin of victory in the state. Finding Pearce down 23 to Bingaman makes a ton of sense since he managed to lose by 22 in 2008 even in an open seat situation. I am perfectly comfortable with the validity of these results.

Anonymous said...

I figured Johnson would be a good shot overall. Bingaman is just too popular right now for a head-to-head. But so were a lot of Democrats in early 2009...

I wonder what the Republican establishment will say about a genuine small government guy like Johnson being the most electable? What will be their excuse to smear him?

DBL said...

The samples should be older, more conservative, and more Republican than 2008. 2008 was the strongest Democratic year because 1) there was a new exciting Democratic Presidential candidate 2) people hated Republicans. 2010 was the strongest Republican year because 1) people were unhappy with that President 2) people hated Democrats.

I don't think any of those four circumstances will exist in 2012 for various reasons. One of them is that if you look at Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton's re-elections you'll see that the share of the congressional vote fell between their initial total and the mid-term total. This was despite bigger victories in their re-election than in their initial election.

Since we don't know anything for sure, the safest route is to go somewhere between the 2008 and 2010 electorate.

Tom, You're disappointing me. Pollsters aren't supposed to poll to results they think are correct. They're supposed to poll with criteria they believe are correct and the results are unknown.

What you've done is replace a lot of independent voters who voted for Barack Obama with a lot of Democrats who voted for Barack Obama. Democrats who vote for Obama almost always will vote for Democrats down ballot. Independents who voted for Obama are more likely to split their vote.

Independents are far more fluid with their Presidential vote. I'm pretty certain that Obama will win New Mexico Democrats again by a margin similar to 91%-9%. His 56%-41% win with independents is up in the air.

Tom Jensen said...

DBL,

We weight our polls for gender, race, and age and nothing else. This is how it came out weighting for those three variables. Not exactly sure how that constitutes 'polling to results I think are correct.'

This reminds me of all fall when people said we had too many Democrats in our West Virginia polls when we had Manchin up and Ras had Raese up and then in the end it turned out we actually didn't have enough Democrats yet!

The Interesting Times said...

Anonymous:
"I wonder what the Republican establishment will say about a genuine small government guy like Johnson being the most electable? What will be their excuse to smear him?"

Many Republicans would oppose Johnson for the same reasons they oppose the Pauls: Johnson is anti-war, anti-Fed, and pro-marijuana.

I would suspect that Johnson does only marginally better than Ron Paul did in 2008--mainly because he lacks some of the well-known Ron Paul stigma.

Anonymous said...

Gary Johnson is the guy Republicans should nominate for President. His numbers here suggest that he would be very competitive against Obama in getting swing voters. (He does well with independents, Hispanics and even Democrats.)

Dustin Ingalls said...

"I figured Johnson would be a good shot overall. Bingaman is just too popular right now for a head-to-head. But so were a lot of Democrats in early 2009..."

The electorate is not going to become more Republican in a presidential year like it did in the 2010 midterm, which was historically Republican in terms of composition.

DBL: We're looking at where the electorate is now. Hold your horses and wait for August 2012 or so if you want to see where it'll be then as we start polling likely voters for the actual election. But it won't be as far off from what we're seeing now as you wishfully think.

"Tom, You're disappointing me. Pollsters aren't supposed to poll to results they think are correct. They're supposed to poll with criteria they believe are correct and the results are unknown."

False. It would be incredibly dangerous to fudge the partisan numbers based on what we THINK they'll be.

DBL said...

You continually had too many Democrats in your polls last year. If you do it all the time, you're liable to get some right. West Virginia had their lowest percentage of Democrats ever. They were replaced by independents, not Republicans, however.

Electorate make-up isn't that hard to predict if you have a decent idea which way the public is leaning, if any. I can't find an instance where a states had a year that was 11% Democratic or Republican more than other years.

You're polling to the results if you can say that Pearce losing by the same amount means you've done a good poll.

Tom Jensen said...

Our polls for 2010 had a .3% pro-Republican bias. We would have been more accurate if we'd found a few more Democrats.

Anonymous said...

"Our polls for 2010 had a .3% pro-Republican bias. We would have been more accurate if we'd found a few more Democrats."

I see I was right :)

I glad you admit this. Then a lot of republicans was happy with the results, but now, it seems different :)

Josh said...

PPP is going to give pretty accurate results most of the time. They were ranked one of the best pollsters for this past cycle. They were right on during the Kentucky Senate race even when Trey Grayson bashed their results every chance he got. And for one of the paid polls they did for us, they were spot on months outside of the election.

As for Gary Johnson, don't focus on if it will be more or less Republican in 2012, focus on how he's been out of office for 8 years and he was extremely popular in his heyday. If he spends money, which he will have a lot of, he could make it competitive. If he runs in an open seat, he wins.

Want to flip a seat "R?" Get Gary Johnson to run in New Mexico.

Anonymous said...

another pro bias poll by Daily Kos Hate America firm

There is no proof 2008 turnout will replicate itself in 2012. None. All those young people who came out in 2008 and now have no jobs won't be out in 2012.

I live in NYC and see no love for Obama here even anymore

Anonymous said...

The electorate is not going to become more Republican in a presidential year like it did in the 2010 midterm, which was historically Republican in terms of composition.

Perhaps but the Carter looks strong in this one. If it is indeed 1980 all over again that's 12 Senate seats!

 
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