7-18 New Mexico is the swingingest state
SANTA FE -- Why has the presidential race already started in New Mexico? We were freed from negative political ads only last November. And they are already starting again? Why?
It's because New Mexico is important. We have only five electoral votes out of 535. That's less than one percent. But sometimes elections are won by that narrow a margin. And New Mexico's votes count.
That's an odd statement to make. Everyone's vote counts. Right? Wrong. The anachronistic Electoral College method of voting for president means that in states dominated by either political party, the minority party voters might as well not bother voting for president.
Electoral votes are winner take all. So if it is a foregone conclusion that one party's candidate is going to win, the other candidate's supporters might as well not vote.
If every vote counted, Al Gore would have beaten George W. Bush in 2000. But Bush had more electoral votes. That's the way this silly game is played. It doesn't benefit either party but it surely can mess up a candidate's day.
In that 2000 election, Gore beat Bush by 366 votes in New Mexico. It was only the second time in our state's almost 100-year history that we didn't vote for the winner. But New Mexico's vote was more representative of the nation's vote than the Electoral College result was.
So New Mexico is called a bellwether state. Despite having many differences from the nation as a whole, the way New Mexicans vote is more reflective of the nation's vote than is the vote of any other state.
Why? We don't really know. That is why Barack Obama had 24 campaign offices spread throughout New Mexico in 2008. It also may be why the movie "Swing Vote," starring Kevin Costner, was set in New Mexico. Costner's vote determined who would be president.
It also is difficult to explain how New Mexico has its second candidate for president in two consecutive elections. Both Gov. Bill Richardson in 2008 and former Gov. Gary Johnson in this election felt they had a legitimate chance to win.
Johnson says he still is confident of winning despite not being able to crack the two percent barrier in any national polls. He told Fox News last week that he is encouraged by recent polls of voters in states with presidential candidates.
The results show that Johnson is the only one of the candidates who have a positive popularity rating in their home state. Johnson's popularity is 12 points higher than his unpopularity among those polled.
In second place was Newt Gingrich of Georgia, whose unpopularity is 8 points higher than his popularity. Bringing up the rear is Michele Bachmann, whose unpopularity is 26 points higher than her popularity in Minnesota. She beat out Sarah Palin by one point for last place.
The poll once again was conducted by Public Opinion Polling, which found a few weeks ago that Johnson is doing better than any other Republican candidate against President Obama in New Mexico.
Public Opinion Polling was listed last year by the Wall Street Journal as being the second best national pollster in swing state races. So evidently they don't have a Johnson bias.
Despite the pollster finding Johnson doing well against Obama among registered voters in New Mexico, the results flip when the vote is strictly among Republicans. Bachmann leads that poll by a fairly wide margin.
The message of these two polls is that Johnson does better among independents and Democrats than he does among Republicans. So why doesn't he switch parties? It is because he was a bigger budget cutter as New Mexico's governor than were any of his gubernatorial counterparts across the nation.
But Johnson's position on social issues. He believes government has no more business interfering in people's social lives than it does interfering with business and industry.
It is very libertarian but it appears to be no-win for Johnson.
JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail) firstname.lastname@example.org