February 20, 2011


Bingaman Exit Gives GOP an Opening in a Toss-Up Race: Given the numbers, a GOP Senate majority looks "inevitable." (Jennifer Duffy, February 18, 2011, National Journal)

Until the 2010 midterm elections, Democrats had had a fairly good run in New Mexico. Then-Vice President Al Gore carried the state by just over 300 votes in the 2000 presidential contest. Although President George W. Bush won here in 2004, it was by a single percentage point and by less than 6,000 votes. President Obama avoided a nail-biter of a race in 2008, soundly defeating GOP presidential nominee John McCain, 57 percent to 42 percent.

Democrats also held the governorship for eight years, and they now have both U.S. Senate seats, although they didn’t win the second until 2008. Also that year, the party won all three seats in the congressional delegation. Democrats held majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature with margins of 45 seats to 25 seats for Republicans in the House and 27 seats to 15 seats in the Senate.

Republicans, though, made real gains in 2010. Then-Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez won the governorship, defeating then-Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, 53 percent to 47 percent, to become the nation’s first Hispanic female governor.

Republicans picked up one of the two House seats they lost in 2008, and they made gains in the state House (the Senate was not on the ballot), although they remain in the minority. Democrats now hold 37 seats to 33 for Republicans. In short, New Mexico is a more competitive state than many people believe, and Bingaman’s retirement is welcome news to Republicans.

Republicans were hoping to give Bingaman a race this cycle, particularly since he has gotten just nominal challenges in recent years. He won reelection in 2006 with 71 percent of the vote. Former Rep. Heather Wilson is high on the GOP’s recruiting list.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at February 20, 2011 9:46 AM
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