Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sanderoff Says: Veteran NM Pollster Weighs In On Topsy-Turvy Political Year; Trump Vs Clinton And The Battle For The Legislature 

Brian Sanderoff
In this topsy-turvy, utterly unpredictable and anything goes election year who better to turn to for calm guidance than Brian Sanderoff, the veteran pollster who approaches even the most emotional of elections with a sedate demeanor and armed with an arsenal of facts.  

Sanderoff, who heads Research and Polling, is in his 30th year of conducting highly accurate surveys for the Albuquerque Journal. Since there are no banner statewide races like US senate or governor on the ballot this year, it will be the battle for control of the New Mexico House and Senate that will be most prominent, with the obvious exception of the Clinton-Trump showdown. That's where we started our conversation with Sanderoff.

The pollster does not break ranks with his fellow pundits in predicting that New Mexico appears "safe" for Clinton. 

"With two large Obama victories in 2008 and 2012 and with Hispanics--who lean Democratic--making up an increasing share of the electorate, Clinton is the clear favorite to take the state's five electoral votes." He declared.

Sanderoff does leave the door open a crack for Trump, saying if there was an anomaly, such as a crash in voter turnout, there could be a more competitive race here.

The presidential race led Sanderoff into comments about the battle for the legislature.

"Our studies have shown the national mood plays a very big role in determining the outcome of legislative races. In 2009, the Democrats held a 45-25 advantage in the state House. Then came the 2010 mid-term and and the rise of the Tea Party. Republicans picked up eight state House seats. In the  2014 mid-term when Obama was unpopular the R's picked up the House seats they needed to take control for the first time since the early 50's."

But there's more than the national mood to consider, Sanderoff said. Republicans will be "playing defense" in the effort to keep control. "In some ways they are victims of their own success. They have to hold on to all those seats they picked up in the non-presidential cycle plus they have to worry about Trump."

That doesn't mean they can't succeed, he reasoned, but this time the wind is not at their backs. That leads us back to Trump (doesn't everything?).

Republican Governor Susana Martinez and Republican Albuquerque Mayor Berry have been like cats on a hot tin roof when it comes to Trump. They keep jumping away from their party's presumptive nominee, refusing to formally endorse him as his campaign rhetoric about Hispanics has grown increasingly strident. Sanderoff says such caution (or fear) will likely find its way into the legislative races.

"In House districts where Republicans need Democratic votes to win, I suspect you will see the Republican candidates refusing to endorse Trump." He said.

Not that there is any safe play for the R's when it comes to The Donald. If they refuse to back him the Democratic candidates will keep up the pressure for GOP endorsements as they work to make their races a referendum on Trump.

As for the Republican dream of taking over the state Senate, currently controlled 24 to 18 by the Democrats, Sanderoff puts that in the "longshot" category.

"The Republicans would have to pick up six senate districts to gain outright control, assuming the Democrats regain two Democratic leaning districts that they lost due to special circumstances. All of this would need to happen in a Presidential election cycle in which turnout increases, thereby typically helping Democrats."

When it comes to the proliferation of virtually unregulated millions of dollars flooding into the political process as a result of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, Sanderoff likes to see the glass as half full.

"The biggest change in politics in my lifetime is the downsizing of the political parties and the rise of the super PACs and other fund-raising vehicles. But this year we saw Jeb Bush, who was financed by millions in PAC dollars, go down to defeat and Bernie Sanders managed to bypass mega-donations and super PACs by raising millions in grassroots donations."

Sanderoff delivers his big picture analysis with his trademark tranquility and an even-tempered manner that has weathered the decades. That's especially welcome in these current days of political tumult. 


In a first blog draft Wednesday we had Hillary Clinton carrying Curry County. The story reported correctly that it was Sanders who carried Curry. We corrected the headline. 

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