Election Coverage / Government Watch / Politics

Can Republicans Shake the Democrat’s Grip on New Mexico?

AMAC Exclusive – By Daniel Berman

New Mexico
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) of New Mexico

While New Mexico is considered by many to be a solidly “blue state,” having voted for the Democrat in every presidential election since 2004 (and having failed to do so in that year by only the narrowest of margins) there are some subtle signs that the party’s grip over the state may be weakening. While the state does not have a U.S. Senate race in 2022, incumbent Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham faces a fierce challenge from Republican Mark Ronchetti. Meanwhile, the results of redistricting do not rule out the possibility of a one or two seat gain for Republicans in U.S. House races, particularly as shifts among Hispanic voters add a wholly new and unpredictable aspect to the contests. Finally, given the current political environment and Joe Biden’s historic unpopularity, Republicans may indeed be poised for major gains – but they will have to work for them.

The situation in New Mexico contrasts somewhat with that of another key Southwestern state, Nevada, which AMAC Newsline profiled last week. With a heavily working-class Latino population, in a state hard hit by COVID-19 lockdowns, Democratic prospects there looked grim – not least because local trends had already been running against the Democratic Party for over a decade. There is a decent chance that even in a neutral year, Democrats would find themselves in trouble in Nevada.

New Mexico, despite similar demographics, is a different story. The most promising opportunity for Republicans appears to be the governor’s race, as Ronchetti, a former television meteorologist, lost the 2020 Senate race by a shockingly close 6% margin while Biden won the state by 10%. Polls show the race with Grisham as too close to call, but with Grisham stuck in the mid-40% range. Meanwhile, efforts by Democrats in the redistricting process to set themselves up to win all three of the states’ congressional seats have created a possibility that Republicans could manage that feat instead.

Drilling down a bit into the statistical history, it becomes clear that Republicans nonetheless face a tough climb in New Mexico. It becomes clear why when the last five presidential elections are considered in relation to the national margins. (These are somewhat obscured in 2016 by the strong performance by former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who won 9% on the Libertarian Party ticket.)

YearNew Mexico ResultNational MarginDifference
200047.9%-47.8% Gore48.4%-47.9% GoreR+.4%
200449.1%-48.9% Bush50.7%-48.3% BushD+2.2%
200856.9%-41.8% Obama52.9%-45.6% ObamaD+7.8%
201253%-42.8% Obama51%-47.2% ObamaD+6.6%
201648.3%-40% Clinton48%-45.9% ClintonD+6.2%
202054.3%-43.5% Biden51.3%-46.8% BidenD+6.3%

As with Nevada, the Democratic advantage peaked with Obama’s landslides among Latino voters in 2008. Since that election, the state’s politics appear to be static according to the topline numbers. This perception, however, is misleading. Substantial change has taken place, but unlike in Nevada, where the combined Democratic margins from Reno’s Washoe County and Las Vegas’ Clark County actually declined in raw votes from 2012 to 2020, in New Mexico, Democrats have managed to milk the growth in the fast growing inner suburbs, powered by a tech-industry exodus from California, to increase their raw vote margins. The result has been to cancel out Republican gains elsewhere in the state since 2008, in effect freezing in place the overall partisanship. The influence of Bernalillo County, home to the state’s largest city, Albuquerque, and its neighbor in Santa Fe is evident when we examine how it has behaved since 2000.

YearNew Mexico ResultBernalillo CountyBernalillo Vote MarginSanta Fe CountySanta Fe MarginTotal Margin, Bernalillo + Santa FeStatewide MarginR Margin Rest of State
200047.9%-47.8% Gore48.7%-46.6% GoreD + 4,21264.7%-28.3% GoreD+18,043D+22,255D + 326R+21,929
200449.1%-48.9% Bush51.5%-47.3% KerryD+11,80271.1% – 28.7% KerryD+27,608D+39,410R+5,988R+45,398
200856.9%-41.8% Obama60%-38.7% ObamaD+61,04576.9% – 21.9% ObamaD+39,760D+108,805D+125,590D+16,785
201253%-42.8% Obama55.6%-39.3% ObamaD+44,33173.5%-22.3% ObamaD+35,372D+79,703D+79,547R+256
201648.3%-40% Clinton52.2%%-34.5% ClintonD+48,71971.1%-20.1% ClintonD+36,361D+85,080D+65,567R+19,513
202054.3%-43.5% Biden61%-36.6% BidenD+77,62276.1%-22.3% BidenD+44,201D+121,823D+99,720R+22,103

As is evident, while Democrats have always done well in Santa Fe/Albuquerque, that was not enough to win the state in either 2000 or 2004. It was also not needed in 2008, when Obama would have won the state even had no votes been cast in either of the two counties. Starting from 2012, however, Democrats became dependent on their margins in the area to win statewide. What made the difference compared with Nevada is that they generally managed to increase them, unlike Democrats with Las Vegas.

Does this mean Democrats are safe in New Mexico? It was not enough to stop Republican Susana Martinez from winning two terms as Governor in 2010 and 2014. So Republicans can win statewide. But generally, they need to be able to appeal in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and not just run up the totals in rural areas.

Enter Mark Ronchetti, the GOP candidate for governor. Ronchetti was a longtime meteorologist for KRQE, the local television station in Albuquerque. Those links paid off when he ran for Senate in 2020. Although he lost statewide by 6%, compared to Trump’s loss by 10%, a large portion of the difference was made up in Bernalillo and Santa Fe Counties, where he lost 57%-41% as opposed to 61%-36%, and in the suburban Sandoval County, where he lost 49%-48% while Trump lost 53%-45%. With Joe Biden deeply unpopular and gubernatorial races being less partisan than those for Senate, he seems set to break through. Polls show Grisham, who won by 14% in 2018, leading by an average of only 3.5% this year.

There are other factors which are driving Democrats down in the state as well. If one of the reasons for the trend toward Democrats in the suburbs in recent cycles was a perception that the Republican Party had gone too far to the right, then in 2022 the reverse is true for Democrats, not just nationally but locally with concern over “woke” issues, energy, and inflation.

New Mexico Democrats have historically been moderate, but in the leadup to the 2020 elections, progressive challengers associated with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez targeted seven incumbent Democrats, including the long-time chair of the state Senate Finance Committee, John Arthur Smith, who was defeated along with five of his colleagues after a 32-year tenure. The result was to usher in one of the most left-wing two year periods in state history. Grisham, with the support of the legislature, has advertised New Mexico as an abortion haven for out-of-state patients, and sought to make cash payments to “offset” inflation, a policy certain to worsen the state’s labor shortage and further fuel the inflation it purports to halt. This extremism already caused one Democratic State Senator, Jacob Candelaria, to quit the party after suing the Governor.

Among Candelaria’s complaints was an aggressively partisan redistricting map for the state’s three U.S. House seats, which sought to target first-term Republican Yvette Harrell by splitting Albuquerque three ways. Candelaria asserted this move denied both Albuquerque and Hispanic residents a voice in Congress in favor of using their votes to elect another partisan Democrat. Under the old map, Joe Biden won two districts and Donald Trump one. Under the new map, Biden won all three.

The backlash may help power Ronchetti to the governor’s mansion as a perceived moderate alternative to Grisham’s hyper-partisan, hyper-liberal governance. But Democrats may have opened themselves to a wider backlash as well. By purging their own moderates at a time when they have already spread themselves thin, they have left themselves vulnerable to a disastrous drop in support. This is evident in the new U.S. House map. Under the old map, Biden won the 1st district by 23% and the 3rd by 17%. Under the new map, he wins the three districts by 15%, 6% and 10%, while Ronchetti lost them in his 2020 senate race by 5%, 3%, and 8%. Democrats arguably did a decent job sticking the swingiest regions into the most heavily Democratic 1st district, but by cutting their own margins, they exposed themselves to a potential Republican gain of one or even two seats.

On a wider level, New Mexico Democrats chose to bet on the inflexibility of New Mexico’s partisanship across the board since 2020. They bet they could purge their own moderates, spread their supporters thin in new congressional maps, and govern as if the state was Washington or California. 2022 will provide a test of whether they are right – or whether Republicans can break the stalemate in New Mexican politics which has existed since 2012 and sweep the state.

Daniel Berman is a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics. He also writes as Daniel Roman.


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Robert
2 months ago

All these questions! Can Republicans do this can Republicans win here and win there? Straight up? Vote in person, no early voting, clean up voter rolls, democrat operatives can be involved in the counting, hand counting but can’t touch any ballots lol. In other words no cheating in any way and the results would be in my opinion, democrats would not win a single election for any seat in any state in any office.

MBlanc46
2 months ago

New Mexico’s gone. Colorado is gone. It looks as if Arizona is gone. At least at the presidential level, those states will never again vote for a Republican. The same with Virginia and Georgia. How many more Third World invaders will it take before Florida and Texas are gone? Anyone who is not thinking about break-up is not facing reality

Chad
2 months ago
Reply to  MBlanc46

lol ….keep drinking the koolaid and pulling your lever for all dems… AZ is red and so is NV …u just won’t know it until Nov.

Leon Haller
2 months ago
Reply to  MBlanc46

Stopping immigration (legal and illegal) has been the most important issue at least since 1989 -maybe since 1965. But there is an opening now with Hispanics. They tend to be liberal, which is why we should not have allowed nearly 60 MILLION into the country since ’65. OTOH, they are fairly pragmatic, and thus the Democrats’ lurch to the radical left is alienating many of them. Let no one be deluded into thinking that Hispanics are “natural Republicans”. They are not. But they’re also mostly not actual communists or thug lovers or LGBTQ fanatics, either. So they are in play now. But next time GOP has all three branches of the Federal Gov, they had better use their power to halt the immigration invasion – or they and the nation really are doomed. (And I, too, support Red State secession.)

Linda
2 months ago
Reply to  Leon Haller

They better use their power to do their jobs. Fix immigration, dependence on other countries for oil and medications and pass a budget. That is how we got here. Republicans didn’t do anything either, the last time they had control. Hopefully they learned a lesson.

ATM1
2 months ago
Reply to  MBlanc46

That’s a pretty grim outlook. Although I can’t say with certainty that there’s an awakening taking place, I’d like to believe there’s still hope for America. But… we have to stop the invasion and purge this country of illegals before they get a larger foothold…

fredwriter1961
2 months ago

bring back literacy tests to keep the ignorant from voting A voter id law coupled with a mandatory mental health exam will get rid of a lot of the ignorant voters who keep Democrats in power

George Rivera Jr
2 months ago

Hopefully, the residents of New Mexico have had enough of the tax-&-spend liars in Sante Fe.

Myrna Wade
2 months ago

The fight between extremists is comparable to what makes churches split: people become so sure that they know what is best that they insist that either we are saved by grace or works and whoever doesn’t see it their way is hell bound. They don’t pay attention to the command judge not! God is the judge. This one-sided persecution of January 6, 2021, flag waving intruders continually reminds us that there is such a double standard: one view by the elite and famous rulers and quite another by mere mortals. I hope that when republicans become the majority, there will be a new day, and everybody will be able to speak his mind without fear.

Becky
2 months ago

The democrat party died with my grandparents in the early 70s. They long ago became Communist.
Nothing will change until we fix voting fraud, AND return to deporting these things, and hanging the Treasonous ones.

Hal
2 months ago
Reply to  Becky

Right on, Becky. Until the voting system is fixed to prevent rigging, the Nation will continue to sink into Communist Rule and away from Constitutional governance. The thing that most people don’t realize, the more Commie the Nation becomes, the less likely it will ever be recovered without a bloody civil war.

RHenry
2 months ago
Reply to  Becky

You got that right!

John D. Beach
2 months ago

American citizens need to wake up to the fact that Democrats are more than willing to finance entitlements and stimulus checks for liberal-manufactured crises by unlimited debt. Two principled Democrats and many republicans have stood in the way of this modus operandi of the Democrat Party.
This is the mentality which must be defeated if the country is to survive.

Hal
2 months ago
Reply to  John D. Beach

Unlimited debt means higher taxation. The government prints money as needed. And like any other commodity, the more it prints – the more it declines in value. And when tax paying time comes around the higher the % bracket is because more money and dollar-rated income is made to increase the tax take. It is imperative that government function on a non-debt basis as to the money it prints,.. but it doesn’t because the politicos need to spend it to get votes, particularly the DemocRat Party.

Ron Bentley
2 months ago

We’re called the land entrapment for a reason. Democrat control for 80 years

Hal
2 months ago

The Republicans can shake that grip if they can put a halt to vote rigging … otherwise, probably not.

Linda
2 months ago

Unfortunately, part of the problem is the ‘amnesia’ that New Mexicans seem to get about election time. There is probably no one that would have re elected the Governor during Covid. But as she is sending out thousands of dollars to all taxpayers (and allowing those that didn’t pay any tax, to apply) it is no accident that those checks are being spread out now and will keep arriving until the election. For some reason, as long as I have lived here – popular discussions and opinion seem to be very displeased with the Democrats. Our economy is based largely on the oil and gas industry and as it is being over-regulated and shut down,. the economy is getting worse. Government programs and schools are over-run with illegals getting the same benefits as needy citizens. Between the amnesia and the highly irregular election processes (most are not even attempted to be hidden), I don’t hold out a lot of hope for this state to turn.

Orenv
2 months ago
Reply to  Linda

The democrats are hell bent on shutting down oil and gas.

Momcat
2 months ago

states need to use the electoral college method to keep the metro blue areas from ruling a red state.

Michael J
2 months ago
Reply to  Momcat

I totally agree. Every state needs an electoral system to prevent mob rule as evidenced by election strongholds.

tika
2 months ago

we have to!

Mohave50
2 months ago

New Mexico is a third world country. It is at the bottom of every good list and at the top of every bad list. Some of the people in the State House are in their 90’s. They openly cheat in elections shamelessly and continue electing leftist idiots like their current governor. I lived in NM from 2004 to 2019. Saw it all. The really sad part is that NM is a lovely State. It has a lot of interesting history and some amazing scenery. A lot of the old West in New Mexico. Damn shame most New Mexicans think they need to vote for Democrats who give them a lot of Free Stuff.

edward
2 months ago
Reply to  Mohave50

lenin referred to them as USEFUL IDIOTS.

Smili'in Jack
2 months ago
Reply to  Mohave50

It’s really hard to compete with Santa Claus.

Orenv
2 months ago
Reply to  Mohave50

That free stuff will end when the oil and gas industry.

Granny26
2 months ago

More like demonrats….

mjl
2 months ago

7/22/22 PUT ON AMAC COMMENT SITE:

COMMENT TO PAUL E
If possible, I think you should run for public office…we need people who can still use and believe in common sense. I look forward to your comments and explanations of the true intent concerning our current political mess….your straight forward explanation of the action by the present administration and politicians on both sides are so helpful in understanding what is really happening …a really good example of the chip legislation being pushed through. I HEREBY CHALLENGE AMAC ACTION TO ADD YOU TO THEIR EDITORIAL STAFF TO TELL US WHAT IS REALLY HAPPENING!!!!

rvgrandma
2 months ago

Being a resident of Washington, just like Oregon the democrats have been running our states only because the highest populations are in the Puget Sound and Portland metro area. There is a reason Eastern Oregon wants to succeed and join Idaho. Wish Eastern Washington would too.

Kay
2 months ago

I would think the Hispanics who have built a business would not be happy with illegals coming into their areas and live off the government and willing to work for little money. If people can not way into what will help them and their families they deserve what they vote for. Communism is rampant and will soon take over every state.

Dave
2 months ago
Reply to  Kay

I would think…

Careful, that will trigger the ‘woke’…

Morbious
2 months ago

The article misses an essential and very timely point: mexican immigrants have taken over most of the trades in this country, often outworking their native counterparts along with being reliable and doing quality work. Thus far theyve arrived more or less in proportion to the jobs available. However, the treason party has thrown the gates wide open and will be offering welfare to the new wave of illegals. Theres little doubt as to how they will vote when the treason party gives them driver’s licenses. This is how the demons took California. To sum up; its not realistic to compare hispanic voters who work and are now stakeholders with the swarms currently arriving courtesy of biden et al. They will swing close elections and thats been the plan all along.

Denise
2 months ago
Reply to  Morbious

Once upon a time in a “land far away” the state of California was truly a dream state. It had earned the title “The Golden State” fairly. Sadly the demorats have turned it to a burned up, sewage filled big city streets ghetto, far left insane asylum. I spent my “formative” years there in the 50’s in the San Fernando valley. A slice of heaven, safe, clean well run. A family paradise. But as the raven would now say: “Nevermore”. The fires have always been a part of California…but once upon a time the forests were actually managed and clean. There has been NO forest management “thanks” to the self proclaimed (and painfully uneducated) so-called “environmentalists”and their allies the demorats. The 60’s saw the targeted destruction of that state…it may never recover.

Becky
2 months ago
Reply to  Morbious

Maybe in the Southwest illegals are good workers. In the Midwest they are as destructive as tornadoes. They are NOT even close to “good” workers.
Those who hire them should be charged with crime, as our law states.

anna hubert
2 months ago

Tug of war between the parties is fine as long as the rope is solid but it now is frayed and fragmented exactly what Lincoln tried to avoid

Denise
2 months ago

Go Mark Ronchetti!! We’re 45 minutes from the New Mexico border. This state is a beautiful state BUT it has been literally run into the ground by democrat governors for decades. It has had the distinct place of being only second to Alaska in violent crime. Their “judges” continually let career criminals go before court…of course for some reason the criminals ‘miss’ court. To say New Mexico is a blue state is like calling Hurrican Katrina a summer breeze. One of the worst in drunk driving accidents, basically a welfare state, home invasions, dead last in schools (per a newscaster on KRQE) child abuse, child death, and of course a non-existent border…ad nauseum. But, there are also a lot of great people in the state who pretty much get ignored. Sadly my state also was literally stolen by uber wealthy shyster democrats in 2010 and we’ve gone down hill steadily. The best governor New Mexico had was Suzanna Martinez, a conservative Republican. She left office leaving a huge surplus for the state. It is disheartening to see.

Becky
2 months ago
Reply to  Denise

This will remain the case until these Commies are driven out of everywhere….and kept out.

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