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Heather Wilson Has GOP Confident in New Mexico

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo

That provided a significant boost for Democrats in past years thanks to the party’s voter registration dominance. Martinez won in 2010, 53 percent to 47 percent, but among straight-party voters, she took only 45 percent, according to figures provided to Roll Call.

There is little expectation that Obama will match his 2008 margin in this far different environment and with the state’s two previous presidential contests decided by 1 point or less. But there is also no doubt Republicans would feel even better about their chances in a nonpresidential cycle.

One Democratic strategist with extensive experience in the state said Heinrich, even with a diminished downballot windfall, will benefit from the ground game put in place by the Obama campaign to turn out Hispanic voters in the northern and southern parts of the state, areas plush with voters Heinrich doesn’t represent. That’s a major advantage for Heinrich.

“I really would tie Heinrich’s chances for success to how well President Obama turns out and takes New Mexico,” said the strategist, who emphasized that a strong field operation outweighs TV advertising in turning out Latinos in the north.

Wilson said she is not taking the primary for granted despite a dominant performance at last month’s pre-primary convention that forced wealthy businessman Greg Sowards to petition his way onto the June 5 primary ballot. But Wilson is clearly preparing for Heinrich.

“We’ve got a likely Democratic candidate who voted for the stimulus and then voted against the balanced budget amendment to the Constitution,” she said. “He voted for cap-and-trade in one of the largest oil- and energy-producing states in the country. And then he voted against the Keystone pipeline. He voted for Obamacare.”

Still, after more than 10 years in the House, Wilson has a record of her own to defend.

“Wilson will be in a tricky spot in the fall,” Heinrich spokeswoman Whitney Potter said. “It’s hard to claim fiscal responsibility when your tenure in Congress includes maxing out the nation’s credit card on two unfunded wars, tax breaks for the richest Americans and a taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailout.”

Potter added that Wilson could also have a tough time meshing her messaging to the general electorate with her tea party outreach over the past year, which helped Wilson avoid a serious conservative challenge. Wilson says her message won’t change.

“Mr. Heinrich has done some things, which were inconsistent with what New Mexicans wanted from their federal government,” Wilson said. “And those are the things I’ve been talking about all along.”

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