Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wilson, Heinrich Leading in PPP Senate Poll

If the New Mexico primary was held this week, Republican Heather Wilson would beat Lt. Gov. John Sanchez by better than a 2 to 1 margin. And Democrat Martin Heinrich would beat state Auditor Hector Balderas by nearly 2-to-1.

This is according to a statewide survey conducted this week by a national polling company, PPP. It's the first public poll done on the Senate race since U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman announced he's not seeking re-election.

According to PPP's poll memo, Heinrich, a second-term ccngressman from Albuquerque, is helped by greater name recognition. He leads Balderas in the Democratic Primary, 47 percent to 24 percent.

The poll found 73 percent recognized Heinrich's name enough to have an opinion of him. Fifty three percent had a positive opinion while 20 percent had a negative opinion. More than half the Democratic respondents had no opinion of Balderas.

"Although Heinrich is weaker among Hispanics, who make up 46 percent of the Democratic primary electorate, he still leads Balderas 39 percent to 36 percent among Hispanics," the poll memo says. "However, since a majority of Democratic voters are still unwilling to give an opinion of Balderas, Balderas has more room to grow."

On the  GOP side, Wilson was supported by 52 percent of Republicans polled compared with 24 percent for Sanchez. Las Cruces businessman Greg) Sowards came in a distant third with eight percent, while Bill English of Alamogordo got 4 percent .

"Wilson leads by strong margins across the Republican ideological spectrum," the poll memo said. "She leads Sanchez 48-19 among moderates and 48-31 among very conservatives."

Even though many identify Wilson as a "moderate" Republican, since her defeat to Steve Pearce in the 2008 GOP senate primary -- in which Pearce and his supporters called her a "liberal" -- Wilson has been stressing her conservative credentials.

PPP's blog says, "There's been a lot of talk about whether Wilson is weak with the far right and she is weaker with that segment of the party. ... Maybe she'll have trouble with the Tea Party crowd later in the game but she doesn't start off showing any signs of weakness with them."

PPP is a company owned by Democrats and specializes in polling for Democrats and liberal organizations. However, according to experts, the North Carolina-based company's numbers normally are in line with other national polling firms.

Wilson's campaign didn't seem to mind that PPP is a Democratic company. She posted the poll results on her Facebook and Twitter accounts.

PPP poll results released earlier this week show Heinrich and Balderas with modest leads in match-ups against Wilson and Sanchez.

Heinrich led Wilson 47 percent to 42 percent and Sanchez by 45 percent to 39 percent. Balderas led Wilson 45 percent to 39 percent and Sanchez 39 percent to 35 percent.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee on Tuesday responded those numbers Tuesday in an email saying, "If this is what a Democrat polling firm’s numbers show, than it’s clear that the New Mexico Senate race will be among the most competitive in the country next year."

PPP also polled New Mexico Republican voters on the GOP presidential candidates.

Those results found Minnesota Congresswoman and Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann with a plurality of 21 percent with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney close behind with 18 percent. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson came in third with 13 percent.

"Johnson has the weakest favorability numbers with his home state Republican primary voters at 47 (percent favorable)/40 (percent unfavorable.)" the PPP blog said. "Some of his unorthodox positions aren't playing well with the base, even if they do give him an unusual level of popularity across party lines with Democrats and independents."

The "unorthodox positions" referred to undoubtedly were Johnson's outspoken support for marijuana legalization, and possibly to the fact he supports abortions rights and civil-union rights for same-sex couples.

PPP surveyed 400 usual New Mexico Republican primary voters and 400 usual Democratic primary voters, with a 4.9 percent margin of error, between June 23 and 26. The poll was not paid for or authorized by any campaign or political organization.

UPDATE 9:05 pm : Some gibberish in the lead paragraph in the original version has been cleaned up.

PPP Release NM 630930