Friday, September 14, 2012

What a difference eight years can make

This moonscape outside Albuquerque echoed my mood -- chilly and barren -- the morning after the 2004 election. George W. Bush had carried the nation, and, of more immediate interest to me, also the electoral votes of New Mexico where I had been working. He had prevailed in the state by barely 5000 votes, a tough reminder that turning out your voters (in this case his Republican ones who were worked by white evangelicals) can make a difference.

Republican Congresswoman Heather Wilson of Albuquerque was also re-elected quite easily even though Kerry narrowly carried her district. She seemed an unbeatable fixture. And she proved herself a survivor by winning again in 2006, a Democratic wave election that swept out most Republicans in slightly Blue districts like hers.

But now, the former Congresswoman is running in a statewide New Mexico race for a U.S. Senate seat against Martin Heinrich, the Democrat who knocked her out of Congress in 2008.

And now just about everyone seems to agree that Heinrich is a shoe-in to win, the contest not really competitive. First the national Republicans withdrew their money for TV ads, then the Dems followed suit. The emerging Latino fraction of the New Mexico electorate has turned the state Blue.

As we go into the end of a campaign season in which pundits will bloviate on about how, once again, the election only comes down to a handful of the same old swing states, it is worth remembering that change does happen. New Mexico has shifted pretty definitively to the Democratic column, at least in national elections. Nevada seems to be moving the same way. In 2008, Obama made Colorado and Virginia competitive for Dems; they remain so this year. Ohio and Florida remain perennial swing states but there is real movement elsewhere.

Let's turn out those voters!

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