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New Mexico’s Unusual Demographics Shape Campaigns’ Strategies

In this first spotlight segment on New Mexico, the NewsHour examines election issues in the Land of Enchantment as the race between Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama nears its end. Political analysts discuss local campaign tactics.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For more on what's driving voters here, we are joined by Christine Sierra. She's a professor of political science at the University of New Mexico.

    And Joe Monahan, he's author of the nonpartisan political blog "New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan."

    Thank you both for being with us.

    And, Joe Monahan, I'm going to start with you. You just heard Ray Suarez's report. Where do you think New Mexico's almost, what is it, 1.2 million registered voters are today?

  • JOE MONAHAN, Political Blogger:

    Well, this is a great bellwether state. We usually pick the winner. It looks like it's trending Obama's way. The economic situation, as we all know, has drastically changed the picture of this election nationally. And that, of course, includes New Mexico.

    Maybe what terrorism was to the 2004 election, the big issue, that's what economic security is to the 2008 election. And it's being felt across America and across New Mexico.

    Maybe the economic bump, Judy, not quite as intense because of the big government base, as Ray pointed out in his setup piece, but definitely this is the pall, the shadow over this election, and it is helping Obama.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Christine Sierra, what would you add to that? Where do you see the race right now?

    CHRISTINE SIERRA, University of New Mexico: Well, it's still competitive. Obama is running about 4 or 5 points ahead of McCain, but there's still some undecided voters out there.

    I would second what Joe was saying about the economy. And I would say that the — the economic meltdown and people concerned about that is also filtering down to some very competitive open races and seats for the congressional candidates.

    And so one surprising thing is that, in conservative Congressional District 2, which is down south in our state, the Democratic candidate is running just a little bit ahead of the Republican candidate.

    I think that also is a reflection of just the general climate of the times and people's concerns.