Allen Weh and Susana Martinez are in a virtual tie in the Republican gubernatorial primary race while the other three candidates lag far behind, according to a poll conducted for the Albuquerque Journal and released today.
Some 20 percent of those surveyed were undecided or refused to say who they’re supporting, according to the Journal article on the poll.
The telephone survey was of 503 registered Republicans who voted in previous primaries and indicated they planned to vote – or already had – in the June 1 election. It was conducted Tuesday through Thursday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
Weh and Martinez were supported nearly equally by women and men, while Martinez had a lead among Hispanics – 41 percent to 28 percent – and Weh led slightly among Anglos – 31 percent to 28 percent.
Weh has been in the race longer than Martinez and outspent her nearly 3-1. He’s also pumped $1 million of his own money into his campaign. He’s been able to spread his message further than Martinez.
But Martinez’s message is apparently resonating with more of those who hear it, which explains how she’s keeping up with Weh even though she has less money to spend.
Martinez has raised more money from individual contributors than Weh or any other candidate in the race. She’s also had more high-profile officials coming to her aid, picking up the endorsements of more state lawmakers than the other candidates and, today, accepting the endorsement of Sarah Palin at a rally in Albuquerque.
Martinez has no ability to self-finance, and she’s kept up with Weh in part because of $117,500 in contributions from one oil company from Artesia. Weh has outspent Martinez on TV ads, but not by much.
Which leads to the final two weeks of the race.
Weh probably has the ability to give his campaign more money, if necessary, while Martinez may be running short on cash. Palin has made financial contributions to candidates she’s been endorsing around the nation, so it’s possible that her endorsement and potential contribution could help Martinez keep pace with Weh.
The other three
What about the other three candidates? None is likely to exit the race at this late date. All three have invested blood, sweat and tears, and Turner and Domenici have put a great deal of their own money into their campaigns.
Domenici, Turner and Arnold-Jones are all three on television, but their buys are much smaller than those of Weh and Martinez. They simply haven’t been able to keep up in the money race.
So the question may be whether they siphon more votes away from Weh or Martinez on Election Day.
The combination of the Journal poll and the Palin endorsement this weekend could prove fruitful for Martinez. It’s reasonable to assume that, of those 20 percent who were undecided, some who were leaning toward one of the other three candidates might see that their first choice is far behind and be moved by Palin’s endorsement to give Martinez a serious look.
Obviously, that would only apply to people who like Palin.
There may also be GOP voters who are turned off by the Palin endorsement, which could combine with the poll to help Weh win over undecideds who were leaning toward other candidates.
Will anyone go negative?
It’s unlikely that Turner or Arnold-Jones will go negative. It isn’t really in Arnold-Jones’ character and would be counter to the campaign she’s run, and Turner has pledged to not go negative – a promise he reiterated this weekend.
But what about Domenici? Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff, president of Research and Polling Inc., pointed out in today’s article that Domenici has gone nowhere but down since entering the race. With two weeks to go, might he make a last-minute attempt to tear down Martinez or Weh? Or is it already too late for that?
Weh and Martinez knew the race was this close even before the Journal poll was released. They’ve both done their own polling. Both campaigns have been playing like the race was neck and neck. And both have avoided going negative to this point, potentially in the hopes that the other would do it first.
Weh has tested negative messages against Martinez with voters in a phone survey. Have no doubt he’s ready to go negative if he decides it’s necessary. Perhaps the combination of this poll and the Palin endorsement will push him to do it.
Don’t expect Martinez to go negative, at least yet. There’s nothing but good news for her this weekend, and she’s sure to see a boost in fundraising and support because of the Palin endorsement and the poll that proves she’s viable. But what happens on May 27, when the final finance reports are due, if Martinez learns that Weh has put another $250,000 into his campaign and she’s out of cash?
It’s going to be a wild 16 days until Election Day.