There is a wrinkle that has political watchers wondering if the race could be closer than assumed.
BY JOE MONAHAN
Now that Donald Trump has just about clinched the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, the question arises whether the unpredictable billionaire could possibly make a play for New Mexico’s five electoral votes this November.
The short answer is no.
According to Gallup, “The Donald’s” unfavorable rating among Hispanics in March was a sky-high 77 percent. That pretty much takes him out of the running here in any contest with Hillary Clinton. In that same Gallup poll, “The Hillary” scored a 59 percent favorable approval rating among Hispanics.
But there is a wrinkle that has political watchers wondering if the race could be closer than assumed. Veteran New Mexico GOP pollster Bruce Donisthorpe, who has polled for both Republicans and Democrats, conducted extensive polling of the state this spring. He says he has never seen such anger and downright hatred toward politics and politicians.
“It was not unusual for likely voters to tell us that they hate all politicians and to slam down the phone. That goes beyond mere anger and could impact voter turnout this November.”
Donisthorpe says the animosity felt toward the political class will translate into a lower vote turnout, not higher. “They are not happy with their choices and rather than hold their noses and vote for someone, we are sensing that many of them will simply stay home.”
In response to his findings Donisthorpe has already lowered his voter turnout projection. He forecasts that it will fall below that of the 2012 presidential election when about 772,000 people cast ballots for president. How much of a decline from that point, if any, he says, will become more clear later in the year.
‘In practice, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association has become a punch line among some GOP elites in D.C. She’s gotten a reputation within corners of the consultant class as Palinesque: gaffe-prone, not intellectually curious, and not up for the rigors of a national campaign’ – The Washington Post
That lower turnout is good news for Trump. The most likely people to vote this year remain Anglo conservative Republicans, reports Donisthorpe. “The Republicans remain the most reliable voters and that could mean a closer race between Clinton and Trump but she remains the solid favorite here. The state has voted Democratic in the last two presidential elections and that pattern can be expected to hold.”
The most turned-off segment of the electorate right now is independents, a block that continues to grow (19 percent) as more voters turn away from the two major parties. “Our polling shows independent [voters] are especially turned off by the tone of politics these days,” said Donisthorpe.
Turnout could be further hurt by a presidential race that is seen as a runaway.
“If Clinton is far ahead in the polls here, there will be little to drive voters to the polls. The only statewide race is for secretary of state. There is really nothing else, except the battle for control of the state House, which is now in the hands of the Republicans, and the uphill battle by the Republicans to try to take control of the state Senate. That is not going to drive turnout.”
Donisthorpe says low voter turnout is always best for the reliable Republicans as their percentage of the vote grows as more independents and Democrats stay home.
“I think that could be more relevant for the legislative races and help the Republicans, but not so much when it comes to Trump, who is a tough fit for our state’s demographics.”
But what if Gov. Susana Martinez ended up on the presidential ticket with Trump? Wouldn’t that boost turnout here?
Probably so, but that is not going to happen. Martinez has been highly critical of Trump’s immigration policies and her political operatives have been consistently critical of Trump on social media.
Then there’s Martinez’s stumble when she had that ill-fated holiday staff pizza party. Much-publicized audiotapes from the night show her appearing to be intoxicated as she berated a hotel clerk – an incident that alienated so many New Mexicans predisposed to support her as an up-and-coming Latina ascending the national stage.
A Washington Post political column summed it up this way: “In practice, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association has become a punch line among some GOP elites in D.C. She’s gotten a reputation within corners of the consultant class as Palinesque: gaffe-prone, not intellectually curious, and not up for the rigors of a national campaign.”
And that says volumes.
Joe Monahan is a veteran of New Mexico politics. His daily blog can be found at joemonahan.com.