The most likely match up in the New Mexico Senate race is Martin Heinrich on the Democratic side and Heather Wilson on the Republican side and if that proves to be the case, Democrats will start out with a modest advantage. Heinrich leads Wilson 47-40, a margin pretty much identical to the 47-42 PPP found when it last polled the race in June.
Neither of the candidates are exactly popular with voters in the state. Heinrich has an equal 35% holding favorable and unfavorable opinions of him and he's still relatively unknown beyond his Congressional district, with 30% of voters overall saying they're ambivalent toward him. Wilson has negative favorability numbers with 37% seeing her positively while 46% have a negative opinion of her.
Our Republican numbers yesterday showed Wilson with an overwhelming advantage for her party's nomination. Heinrich is the clear favorite on the Democratic side but his lead is a little bit more modest, 47-30 over Hector Balderas. Heinrich's 47% standing is exactly where he was when we last polled this race in June, but Balderas has gained support from his 24% showing then. The key shift has been with Hispanic v0ters- Balderas has gone from a 39-36 deficit to a 41-35 advantage with them. He'll need a much bigger lead than that to offset Heinrich's 58-22 spread with whites though.
If Balderas was the Democratic nominee it looks like Republican prospects for picking up the seat would be a little better. He and Wilson tie at 43% each, as she wins independents by 20 points at 49-29.
Both Heinrich and Balderas have decent sized leads against the under dogs in the Republican primary contest. Heinrich leads John Sanchez by 11 points at 48-37 and Greg Sowards by 18 at 49-31. Balderas leads Sanchez by 7 points at 41-34 and Sowards by 14 at 44-30.
So with the current field this is a 'leans Democrat' race. But one thing could throw a wrench in that- if Gary Johnson decided to shift to a Senate race and won the Republican nomination. He would tie Heinrich at 43% each and lead Balderas by a 44-38 margin. Johnson has a huge amount of appeal to independents and would lead Heinrich by 22 and Balderas by 38 with those voters. He also gets an unusual level of crossover support from Democrats- between 20-23% against Heinrich and Balderas. A Johnson candidacy would make the general election a toss up.
That said a Johnson bid seems unlikely and if he did run a victory in the Republican primary seems unlikely as well. It looks like this race will be far more competitive than the one to replace Pete Domenici in 2008 was, but Democrats once again start out with the advantage.
Full results here