Diary

The Electoral Map: New Mexico and Utah

 

New Mexico

There are three House races in the state and the presidential election.  New Mexico is an interesting state that has increasingly drifted into the blue column, but is not totally lost to the GOP.  They, after all, elected a Republican female Governor twice.  She is considered by some to be a rising star in GOP politics and she drew the ire of Donald Trump when she failed to show up at one of his campaign rallies in Albuquerque.  This was followed up by her decision not to attend the RNC convention in Cleveland.

But this election is not about Martinez, but about the state’s five electoral votes and their three House seats.  With respect the House seats, one should expect no changes as all three incumbents- one Republican and two Democrats- should be returned to Washington.  Neither have had trouble in the past in reelection efforts winning by an average of 23 points among the three.  The same will likely prevail this year.

Instead, the interest will be over those 5 electoral votes and Trump was doing decidedly better than expected here.  The presence of Libertarian Gary Johnson on the ballot is not helping Hillary Clinton.  This is a tendency we see in the blue states where his presence is hurting the Democratic candidate if they are registering in the polls.  New Mexico is nominally blue and only headed there recently so it would stand to reason that Clinton- not exactly the most well-liked Democrat- would suffer.  The question is whether Johnson could siphon enough votes away from her and allow Trump to sneak by and claim those electoral votes.

The chances of Johnson actually winning the state are almost nil.  But, as recently as late September, Trump was either leading Clinton in the polls, or within striking distance.  That has changed since the most recent revelations and his debate performances.  Since then, Clinton has led by an average of 9 points over Trump.  And the trend is that it may get a little worse for Trump as Election Day nears.  Thus, perhaps if this was written in mid-September rather than mid-October I would have called New Mexico a key state to watch come election night.  But, that has changed and the five electoral votes will go to Clinton by about 7-11 points.

Utah

There is a Senatorial, gubernatorial, four House races and the presidential election in Utah where 6 electoral votes are up for grabs.

The gubernatorial election will feature GOP incumbent Gary Herbert against Democrat Mike Weinholtz.  Considering that Herbert sports a 64% approval rating which is one of the highest in the country, this is one of the biggest mismatches this year.  Trump’s presence at the top of the ticket will not impact on the outcome in this race.

In the Senate race, GOP incumbent Mike Lee will face someone named Misty Snow who won the Democratic Party primary in extremely low turnout.  Lee is a transgender rights activist which may not be a winning formula for electoral success in Utah.  This will be an easy win for Lee as every poll conducted (which are very few) indicate a Lee landslide.

Likewise, all four congressional districts are represented by Republicans and all four seek reelection.  In 2014, Mia Love won the 4th District defeating Doug Owens by 5.1 points in the general election.  Considering it was a GOP wave year and given the relatively small margin of victory in a red district in a red state, Owens is back for a rematch this year.  The other three congressional seats are safely Republican.

Democrats may be overplaying their hand here in the Fourth District.  They are seeing a 5 point margin of victory in a GOP wave year coupled with Trump at the top of the ticket equaling a Democratic victory.  Also, a Democrat- Jim Matheson- held this seat before Mia Love took it in 2014 after Matheson’s retirement.  Admittedly, this is the weakest Republican district in the state, but no less Republican.  Mia Love has done nothing to alienate the voters of this district although limited polling shows a relatively close race, but with Love on top.  As an African-American female conservative Republican, she holds a high profile in the party not just in Utah, but nationally.  Although it may be relatively close by Utah standards for a Republican, Love should prevail again this year.  Democrats always target freshmen Republicans under the theory of preventing that incumbent from becoming entrenched.  That is what is happening this year.

In the presidential race, there is an interesting dynamic occurring as in neighboring New Mexico, but because of independent candidate Evan McMullin.  Much as been made of the polls showing Clinton within striking distance of Trump in this state.  Let’s dispel the myth that Clinton will win Utah because it simply will not happen.  If Trump wins the state, it will only be because he has an “R” after his name.  And it will be by a margin considerably below the historical average for a Republican.

Part of that is attributable to Trump and part attributable to McMullin.  As for the Trump part, he underestimates the influence Mitt Romney has in Utah and the large Mormon community.  Trump’s negative comments against Romney and Romney’s consistent attacks on Trump have hurt Trump.  Furthermore, the popularity of Herbert coupled with the anti-Trumpism of Mike Lee- two Republican politicians who along with Romney are at the top of the Utah political chain- are clearly causing Trump to suffer.

 Ever since early polling showed a close race between Clinton and Trump, Utah has been polled regularly and frequently.  That alone is significant given the fact it votes Republican by an average of 40 points in presidential elections since 2000.  It is THE reddest states in that respect, challenged only by Wyoming.   Yet in a good sampling of polls, Trump has never led by more than 15 points.  In effect, the headwinds listed above are keeping Trump from that slam dunk victory here.

There has been some speculation that McMullin could actually win the 6 electoral votes and, if some scenario of grand proportions occurs elsewhere in the country involving Trump winning states he has no right winning (think- Pennsylvania and/or Wisconsin), a McMullin win could prevent either candidate from reaching 270 electoral votes.  Then, all bets are off since the top 3 electoral vote getters (Trump, Clinton, McMullin) would then go the House for a vote.  Unfortunately, that scenario relies on a Clinton collapse and a Trump surge while polls indicate the exact opposite.

In the end, Trump should prevail and take the six electoral votes.  Although the numbers may change between now and Election Day, I have Trump winning by only 10-13 points.  It will be a less than stellar performance by a Republican than historical averages, but a win is a win one supposes.

After this entry, our electoral vote count stands at a 90-68 advantage for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.  The Senate remains 54-46 in GOP control and the House likewise at 246-189.

Tomorrow:  The Great Northwest and Oregon and Washington.