The Palin Effect

 

A couple of weeks ago, New Mexico traded its "toss up" status in the presidential election for "leaning Democrat."  And as of yesterday, the Rasmussen prediction market showed a 58% chance of an Obama/Biden victory in the Land of Enchantment. After many near-too-close-to-call election years, political winds seemed to be blowing moderately leftish.

But recent post-RNC polls in this swing state suggest that the dems are consistently losing ground, dispelling rumors that this swing state had decidedly swung left. For the first time, McCain has surpassed Obama in the New Mexico voter polls (McCain is now polling at 49% while Obama is at 47%, albeit with a 4% margin of error). 

Tom Udall (D) has consistently held a strong advantage over Steve Pearce (R) in the U.S. Senate race, but even his commanding lead is shrinking bit by bit. The 14 point lead Udall enjoyed in April has been cut in half.

No new polling data is available for the very contested race for the 1st Congressional District. At the end of August, Democrat Martin Heinrich was hanging on to his 5% lead.

While polling data is far from perfect when it comes to predicting election outcomes, these numbers could reveal something about a "Sarah Palin" effect. McCain's selection of Palin could be responsible for the slight rightward drift.  Among New Mexico voters (regardless of political affiliation), 41% view Palin "very favorably," compared to Biden's 26%.  More voters view Palin very favorably than any other candidate -- including Obama and McCain.  And Palin seems to have rallied the New Mexico Republican base much more than Biden has helped rally the dems, with 89% of registered Republicans saying that she was the "right choice for McCain" (just 61% of Democrats say the same of Biden). 

If Obama can't hang on to New Mexico, arguably the Western swing state that is mostly likely to swing his way, then Palin may indeed help McCain win the West.

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