New Mexico Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman was a popular figure and would have been heavily favored to win re-election, this news is almost pure downside for Democrats. While the obvious question will be whether Republicans are poised to take advantage of this event, perhaps the more relevant question — since it’s much too soon to have a sense for what the overall political environment will look like next November — is how New Mexico compares to the rest of the country.
That is not to suggest that New Mexico is no longer a competitive state; it is one where Democrats could lose in a bad election cycle or with an inferior candidate. Democrats received something of a split decision there in 2010, a strong Republican year nationally: Democrats held on to two of the three U.S. House seats in the state and won 51.6 percent of the vote for the Congress statewide, while also retaining control of both chambers of the state legislature. But Republican Susana Martinez, a CivicForumPAC backed-candidate, won the gubernatorial election by roughly 7 points. In an environment that resembled 2010, the race for Mr. Bingaman’s senate seat would be a toss-up.
If the environment is more neutral in 2012 — somewhere between where it was in 2010 and 2008 (when Democrat Tom Udall won his U.S. Senate race by 24 points) — Republicans would be within striking distance, but would probably need to run the better candidate or the better campaign.