OPINION

New Mexico: A Red State in the Making?

Democrats' policy failures are paving the way for voter defection in New Mexico.

New Mexico is often thought of by national prognosticators and DNC operatives as a blue state, giving Dems a clear advantage in the presidential election. The most recent Presidential contest in which New Mexico voted for a Republican was in 2004, which was also the most recent Republican Presidential popular vote victory.

That pattern may not hold: in 2016, three other “blue states” were won by successful Republican Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. In 2020, New Mexico trended towards the Republicans relative to 2018, with GOP Senate nominee Mark Ronchetti getting a closer-than-expected 45.6% in the race against Democratic winner Ben Ray Lujan. This contest featured the highest percentage won by a Republican Senate nominee in New Mexico since 2002, back when incumbent Senator Pete Domenici won reelection by double digits.

Moores’ campaign is focusing on Albuquerque’s surging violent crime rate. Could there be other reasons as to why the Land of Enchantment may turn red?

A true test of the Democratic assumption will be the upcoming special election for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, between Republican Mark Moores and Democrat Melanie Stansbury, this June 1st. The vacancy in the district occurred when the incumbent, Democratic Congresswoman Deb Haaland, was appointed and confirmed as the Secretary of the Interior in the Biden administration. Moores’ campaign is focusing on Albuquerque’s surging violent crime rate. Could there be other reasons as to why the Land of Enchantment may turn red?

The Biden administration has clearly begun to make good on the President’s promise to “transition away from the oil industry, yes” that he revealed in the third presidential debate. The administration first paused drilling on federal lands in January, and then began a review of oil extraction’s value to taxpayers. But one of the most overlooked aspects of New Mexico’s state economy is the importance of its oil and gas industry. Roughly 39% of New Mexico’s entire statewide revenue comes from oil and gas extraction. This funding is used to support public education and social services throughout the state.

President Biden’s order to end oil and gas permits on federal lands, and an ostensible end to oil and gas extraction, will likely mean a heavy toll on the Land of Enchantment’s long-term fiscal health. As such, this is causing many in New Mexico, ranging from school administrators to state legislators, to worry. In fact, the administration’s actions were such that the Ute Tribe of New Mexico, a Native American community that supplements its income through fossil fuel extraction, issued a public statement opposing the action. It is estimated that this order could cost approximately 62,000 jobs in the state by 2022.

If Republicans can take advantage of these policy failures and highlight how Democratic policies are negatively impacting New Mexico’s today and tomorrow, they may have a better chance than the Beltway crowd believes—especially in next week’s race.

New Mexico.

New Mexico.

DEMOCRATS ARE LOSING BIG—DESPITE DEMOGRAPHICS

The Democrats’ mantra has been “demographics are destiny” for some time. For the past decade or so, the notion of an emerging Democratic majority has been based on the premise that Republicans would only appeal to an aging Anglo voter bloc, while Democrats would continue to expand their margins and numbers with Latino, African-American, Asian-American, Native American, and younger Anglo voters. This maxim would clearly preclude New Mexico’s shift from blue to red, considering its diversity: approximately 49.3% of New Mexico’s residents are Latino, while 11% are Native American.

Latinos nationwide trended towards the Republicans, for a variety of reasons.

Despite the supposed destiny predicted by the DNC, in 2020, Latinos nationwide trended towards the Republicans, for a variety of reasons. Beltway-based Democratic campaign strategists seem to believe that Latinos, primarily Mexican-American voters, are single-issue voters advocating for an open immigration policy above all else. This paternalistic view of American Latinos belies statistical precedents: multiple polls from the Pew Research Center consistently place education and the economy, not immigration, as top issues among the Latino community. In addition, a February 2016 poll from Univision ranked immigration as the fifth-most important issue, after the economy and jobs, healthcare, education, and national security/terrorism.

Considering the developments impacting education over the past year ranging from lockdowns and distance learning to controversial changes in academic curricula, is it any surprise that voters from all cultural backgrounds would shift their votes accordingly? If Democratic green-inspired policies are costing jobs in the present, imperiling children’s future through education policies, why wouldn’t voters defect?

It’s also worth mentioning that New Mexico is one of several states situated on the U.S.-Mexico border. With the humanitarian crisis precipitated by President Biden’s policies and the thus-far ham-fisted, flat-footed response to the issue, could Beltway Dems appear more out of touch?

Democratic campaigns in New Mexico like to beat Republicans over the head with statistics about Dems winning the popular vote in seven of the eight past presidential elections since 1992. But with growing uncertainty about the border crisis, a gas shortage hearkening back to the gas lines of the Jimmy Carter years, a seeming resurgence of national malaise amid school lockdowns, business closures, and rising crime, New Mexico may remain a bellwether for the zeitgeist of the nation.

Written By:

Robert T. Wood is a researcher, writer, educator, and analyst. He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary with two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Global Studies and Hispanic Studies and a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University.