Presidential Geography: New Mexico
This is the inaugural post in our Presidential Geography series, a one-by-one examination of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In each state, we’ll explore the economic and demographic peculiarities that combine to make one state lean toward President Obama and another go solidly to Mitt Romney. We’ll also highlight a bellwether county in each state to watch for clues on election night as to where the statewide vote will end up.
The 2000 presidential election is most remembered for the Florida recount and George W. Bush’s hair-thin margin over Al Gore in the state. But it was actually New Mexico that had the closest contest that year: a 366-vote Gore victory. Four years later, the race in New Mexico was nearly as tight. Mr. Bush managed a 5,988-vote cushion over Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.
Then came the 2008 race, and the vote in New Mexico wasn’t close to close. President Obama carried the state by 25,590 votes, an 18-point shellacking.
So what happened?
Answer 1: Demographic changes, a growing Hispanic population chief among them, finally hit a tipping point, and Democratic presidential candidates will be able to bank on New Mexico’s five electoral votes in 2012 and for the foreseeable future.
Answer 2: The 2008 election was an anomaly. A Democratic wave nationally — caused by a deeply unpopular Republican in the White House and a financial crisis — as well as a strong get-out-the-vote effort by the Obama campaign combined to inflate the margin in New Mexico. The state will revert to its pre-2008 competitiveness in 2012.
To find the correct answer, FiveThirtyEight spoke with two political science professors from the University of New Mexico: Gabriel R. Sanchez, who is also the director of research for Latino Decisions; and Christine Sierra, who heads up the university’s Southwest Hispanic Research Institute.
New Mexico has grown more Democratic as its Hispanic population has increased. Hispanics make up 46 percent of the state’s population. Mr. Bush was competitive there partly because he did well among Hispanic voters, winning 44 percent
You can read the rest of this article at:: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/15/presidential-geography-new-mexico/
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