I think Jim is right: a month ago, the New Mexico GOP was assured they would have at least one representative in Congress, if not three, following the next election. Now, with Sen. Pete Domenici retiring and Rep. Steve Pearce and Rep. Heather Wilson scrambling to replace him, they don’t have a single incumbent running for office.
My early morning reasoning thinks it would have been easier for Dems to grab Wilson’s seat with her still in it: she’s had to fight more and more to appear independent of Bush, but the Iraq War is still one heckuva monkey on her back.
However, I welcome the idea of an open seat in Pearce’s southern district. I think Dem chances are good throughout the country this year, but it would have taken some mean mojo to upset Pearce in the district. This is a great opportunity for the Democratic party now, especially if the DCCC puts some focus on the area.
Of course, Pearce’s strength in his district is also one in a primary battle with Wilson, and conservative voters in New Mexico will find him a much easier sell. Whether he can take a strong Democrat in a statewide race remains to be seen. New Mexico has been pretty purple during the past two presidential elections, and Pete’s recent polling (remember that 41% approval rating?) indicates that New Mexicans may be tired of politics as usual in Washington. And if the Iraq War is a monkey on Wilson’s back, then George Bush is the one clinging to Pearce. So, the die-hard Republicans might come out of the primary with the candidate they want, only to find out next November that the rest of the state isn’t ready to play along.
Looking forward, I think that Pearce’s camp is going to have to do a much better job of defending the Congressman from allegations of ethics violations than it did last month (you can read more about that at Heath’s place). Wilson, too, was called out by CREW, and it looks like the only thing keeping New Mexico’s Republican House delegation from being investigated is the House Ethics Committee’s truce.
That’s all for now, I’m off to fight a traffic ticket (apparently, turning left during the morning commute is frowned upon in certain areas of the D.C. Metropolitan area).