2022 Governor's Race

Mixed Feelings: Reading the Tea Leaves on New Mexico’s Early Voting Data

Early voting data isn’t painting a bright picture for Republicans this election cycle, but an analysis by a random guy on Twitter gives hope that presumed GOP nominee Mark Ronchetti has what it takes to turn the governor’s office red this November.

Early and absentee ballots cast so far in the New Mexico primary give Republicans an edge in overall turnout, at 7.1% to Democrats’ 6.2%, but with registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans by 181,000 voters in the state, overall turnout favors Democrats 55% to 44%. (Two percent of registered Libertarians have cast ballots, less than a half of one percent of total early votes.)

With only 5.4% of eligible votes cast, the data is far from a bellwether of what’s to come, but that’s never stopped the internet from having a take.

James Hallinan, the former Democrat spokeman paid off by MLG for the infamous “crotch grabbing” scandal of 2018, said “This trend is great for traditional, Hispanic @NMDEMS candidates up and down the ballot.”

Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing retweeted the turnout data with an urgent but nonpartisan message: “Get out to vote people!!!!”

Pizza Czar — an actual Czar of Pizza — tweeted, “We are so f*cked.”

Some attributed Democrats’ edge in turnout to the hotly contested Attorney General’s race, while others entertained the somewhat desperate possibility that Republicans simply don’t care who wins the gubernatorial nomination — they’ll skip the primary but show up in droves to vote red in November to remove Grisham.

Since we’re drawing wide conclusions from narrow data, here’s more: one self-proclaimed analyst is predicting a GOP flip of the New Mexico governor’s race.

Ye’s Political Analysis is predicting a Ronchetti victory in the race by 0.53%.  

It’s about as reliable as 5.4% turnout data, but with the only official polling in the race so far showing Mark Ronchetti within four points of the incumbent, it’s as much cause for hope as anything else on the table right now.

Ronchetti is the only candidate whose polling margin has come within single digits of the incumbent — 47%–43%, compared to the 10- to 16-point spreads in head-to-head matchups with the other four gubernatorial candidates, according to SurveyUSA.

Working in the Republican’s favor, Grisham has the sixth lowest approval rating of any governor in the country.

“According to the poll, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) is one of the least popular governor’s in the nation. Her approval rating–48% approve, 45% do not–is 44th worst in America.”

MLG, One of Most Unpopular Governors In US, Still Gets 48%, ConservativeNM.com

Factor in the highest unemployment rate in the country, the lowest post-COVID economic recovery, the worst education system, and the most federal welfare reliance, and Ye’s Political Analysis might be on to something. 

Between legalizing marijuana and sending yet another round of stimulus checks to residents this spring, these last-minute attempts by the incumbent to buy off voters may signal Grisham’s own nervousness about her re-election odds.

While her political foibles of buying expensive jewelry during a COVID shutdown and wasting taxpayer dollars on wagyu beef and vodka are cheap criticisms that are unlikely to move the needle at the polling booth (particularly for Democrats), the economy, expected summer power outages, and an underperforming school system are all negatives that a much more intelligent and charismatic incumbent would struggle to defend.

And intelligent or charismatic Grisham is not.

The outcome of the November general election hinges on intelligent political attacks that focus on issues that majority Democrats care about as much as minority Republicans. 

If Ronchetti does win the primary, as seems likely, he’s going to have to make the case to Democrats that a Republican isn’t as scary as the mainstream media wants you to believe. That means avoiding the cheap partisan tricks that only rile an already loyal Republican base while isolating Democrats. It means expanding the criticisms of Grisham to issues that affect all voters, regardless of party affiliation. Lord knows there’s plenty to work with.

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