Sunday, February 21, 2010

Poll: Domenici Jr leads GOP field

While Democrat Lt. Governor Diane Denish cruises toward her party’s nomination for governor in 2010 unchallenged, the five-person Republican primary is beginning to heat up, and Pete Domenici Jr, who entered the race last, already has a huge double-digit lead in both name recognition and early voting preferences according to a public opinion poll conducted by 28 NMSU students enrolled in a Political Research Skills course instructed by Dr. Jose Z. Garcia.

The telephone survey, which calculated the responses of 444 registered Republicans statewide, from February 9-13, reports 36.3 percent of participants named Domenici without prompting and 29.3 percent of them said they were leaning toward voting for him — a nearly 18 percent lead over second place finisher Susana Martinez.

“That’s a substantial poll,” Domenici Jr told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “We’re pleased to see those results. We didn’t expect to be this far ahead this soon.”

In fact, Domenici’s likely voter support exceeded the combined voter preference totals for Martinez (11.5%,) Allen Weh (7.4%), Doug Turner (6.8%), and state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones(2.5%). A little more than 42 percent said they are still undecided.

Room for any one of the candidates to surge ahead'

Among likely Republican voters who were able to name, unprompted, at least one candidate in the race, 36 percent were able to name Domenici Jr. That was followed by former state Republican Party Chairman Allen Weh (22 percent), Doña Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez (18 percent), Albuquerque public relations firm owner Doug Turner (17 percent) and State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones of Albuquerque (8 percent).
Still, 46 percent of respondents — 203 people — weren’t able to identify a single candidate.

In his analysis of the results, which have an error rate of plus or minus 5 percent, Prof. Garcia looked at the question of whether Domenici’s lead was primarily due to high name recognition because of his father, retired six-term U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici.

To test it, Garcia looked at respondents who recognized both the names of Domenici and Martinez, who came in second in the poll, and found that 25 percent of those people preferred Domenici, while 40 percent preferred Martinez, 12 percent preferred another candidate and 12 percent were undecided.

“That, coupled with other factors, could mean this primary race could come down to Domenici and Martinez,” Garica predicted.

“The low sample size does not permit definitive conclusions, but this reduction, when combined with the relatively low performance of Weh in the preference question despite his relatively high name recognition … and the relatively low performance of Turner and Arnold, suggests—other things being equal—this is likely to become a two-person race in the next few weeks between Domenici and Martinez,” Garcia’s poll memo states.

Garica’s analysis also broke down the support by gender and ethnicity of respondents, and found that Domenici had the support of at least as many men and women as all the other candidates combined, and the support of roughly twice as many as Hispanic voters.

“Pete’s conservative positions are being well received by those now following the race,” Domenici’s campaign manager Doug Antoon wrote in a news release Sunday morning.

Garcia said he recognized the high number of undecided and believes there is still “a great deal of room for anyone of the candidates to surge ahead.”

In fact, the poll was taken before Domenici admitted to using drugs in the 70’s and 80’s and a mixed statement about his chances of winning the general election in 2010.

Poll results challenged

At least one campaign has questioned the reliability of the poll, calling Garcia a “staunch supporter” of Martinez. Another campaign manager told the Las Cruces Sun-News that the poll does not match their own internal polling.

“We disagree with the results, as Susana Martinez’s results appear inflated,” Allen Weh spokesman Chris Sanchez told the Las Cruces newspaper. “It appears there was a huge conflict of interest. We question who paid for the poll.”

But, Garcia has been upfront on the issue. He said that he purchased the survey list from Albuquerque-based Research and Polling with his own money, said that he's "not backing any of the candidates," nor consulting for any campaign.

The professor said his comments about Martinez being "a game changer," made to blogger Heath Haussamen last July, shortly after Martinez' announcement, was not an endorsement.

“I’m a registered Democrat,” Garica said. “My classes have been conducting polls like this for years.”
“It was not an endorsement at all,” he said. “I think I spoke factually, and if she ends up being a viable candidate in the Republican Party, I was right.”
Some pundits have said the poll signals problems for the Weh campaign.
He had the second highest name identification, but only place third in voter preference. So voters who know him may not have a favorable opinion of him.

Steve Kush, who moved to New Mexico from New Jersey, shortly after aiding Chris Christie’s successful campaign, told the Sun-News the polls numbers are “out-of-line with our internal numbers and appear to be regional in nature.”

“The only poll that matters is the one taken by the voters on Election Day, and I am confident the voters will respond to Representative Arnold-Jones’ message,” Kush told the Sun-News.

Turner told the newspaper he was “pleased that his name recognition numbers were as high as they were in the poll.” He said he started out the campaign at “2 percent or less,” because he’s new to the political arena.

The candidates first test will come in mid-March at the Republican Party Pre-Primary nominating convention in Albuquerque. Candidates there will need to muster at least 20 percent of the delegate vote for an automatic primary ballot position. No candidate who has not garnered that minimum has ever gone on to win the primary.


Anonymous said...

Any idea how the campaigns are progressing through the county pre-primary process?

Jerry said...

The poll is the poll - but it just doesn't make any sense other than to verify the impact of daddy's name. As for Prof Garcia ... he is a straight up guy and the numbers are the numbers but they are skewed by something. NO ONE, other than those who stand to make some money off of it, really believe Junior is more than a smart, but empty, suit with a voice like kermit and a famous daddy. Wey has flubbed in every county convention with the exception of Valencia and Bernalillo, where he was able to push himself in with lots of people - many of whom weren't really sure what they were supposed to do or why they were there, but he arguably has enough delegates to get out of the convention on the ballot ... Turner is a good guy, but isn't catching on and hardly has ANY support from delegates to the upcoming state convention - ditto for the Suit ... the two women are the story for this election and the state convention will tell that story - and by that time, perhaps Susana can reconcile the ethical challenges identified by Domenici, Wey and Turner.

Jerry said...

Wey's comments are silly ... the poll results don't seem to jive with what I think I know, but it is what it is, but got nutso data. Bruce King sounded and looked like Slim Pickens (a compliment) ... I've seen Domenici'v voice referred to sounding like Kermit ... there is a difference.