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New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) stands at lectern
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R)
Hallelujah! The good folks at Public Policy Polling have at long last decided to survey New Mexico, giving us—if you can believe it—our first-ever poll of the Land of Enchantment all cycle. Even though we'd been flying blind, the results largely conform to our perceptions of where the state's gubernatorial and Senate races stand, though there are definitely some unexpected details.

For starters, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, who was first elected in 2010, sports a 52-40 job approval rating: certainly good in these difficult economic times, but she's also not wildly popular, as some have imagined. Still, she leads every Democrat, chalking up scores at or near 50 in all cases. Here's how Martinez fares (with her opponents' favorables in parentheses):

• 47-42 vs. Attorney General Gary King (29-35)

• 47-36 vs. former USDA official Lawrence Rael (19-17)

• 48-34 vs. state Sen. Howie Morales (15-19)

• 50-36 vs. state Sen. Linda Lopez (17-23)

• 48-42 vs. businessman Alan Webber (12-19)

As is often the case when a field of challengers largely lacks name recognition, it doesn't really matter whom Martinez is paired against, since she takes a very consistent share of the vote versus all comers. Of course, we don't have any kind of confirmation from any other source, but these numbers suggest she's in strong, but not invincible, shape for re-election, which squares with our rating of Likely Republican for this race.

One thing we do have, though, is an unusually high level of interest among legitimate Democratic contenders who want to take Martinez on. If there's such a thing as "revealed preference" when it comes to elections, it's possible the very existence of this crowd of hopefuls indicates Martinez is weaker than she appears. It's only a hypothesis—after all, ego always plays a big role in politics—but at least the opposite is often true. Take nearby Nevada, for instance, where Democrats couldn't even recruit a can of beans to challenge Gov. Brian Sandoval. That certainly says something about Sandoval's strengths; the inverse could be the case here.

Head below the fold to see what's happening in the Democratic primary.

Getting back to those New Mexico Democrats, one aspect where PPP's poll does offer something of a surprise is in the primary. Here's where things stand:

King: 34
Morales: 15
Lopez: 13
Rael: 7
Webber: 5
Undecided: 27
Earlier this month, at the New Mexico Democratic Party's pre-primary convention, delegates gave the most votes to Morales, while relegating King—the only statewide official in the contest—to last place. The vote wasn't of profound importance, but all candidates who took at least 20 percent earned automatic spots on the ballot, meaning that King (and Lopez, who also missed the cutoff) will have to petition their way on.

So activists evidently have a different preference than New Mexico Democrats at large, since King has a reasonable lead on Morales at present. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that King is much better-known, but given the number of undecideds and the energy behind his candidacy, Morales could very well challenge the front-runner for the nomination. The primary is June 3.

Meanwhile, in the Senate race, Republicans have little hope of knocking off freshman Democrat Tom Udall. He sports a 52-33 job approval rating, good enough for the top quintile among all senators, according to PPP. Udall beats businessman Allen Weh 53-33 and prosecutor David Clements 55-33. Daily Kos Elections currently rates this race as Safe Democratic.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 11:07 AM PDT.

Also republished by New Mexico Kossaks and Daily Kos.

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