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Without Top Challenger, Democrats Touting Poll

The latest SurveyUSA automated telephone poll showed Sen. Pete Domenici’s (R) approval rating to be upside down, with 41 percent approving and 54 percent disapproving.

Just a month earlier, Domenici had a 52 percent approval rating.

The poll of 600 adults was conducted Sept. 14-16 and had a margin of error of 4.1 points. In the same survey, Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s (D) approval rating was at 58 percent, with 34 percent disapproving.

Democrats were buoyed by the results and believe the polls proves that Domenici, currently serving his sixth term, is in trouble next year.

“The people of New Mexico are clearly unhappy that Pete Domenici is more loyal to George Bush and his failed policies than to the families of New Mexico,” Brian Colón, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said in a statement.

But Democrats have had trouble recruiting a top-tier — or even a second-tier — challenger into the race. Some hold out hope that Gov. Bill Richardson (D) will decide to launch a last-minute Senate bid, assuming his presidential campaign fizzles. New Mexico’s filing deadline is in mid-February, just days after the “Tsunami Tuesday” presidential primaries and caucuses of Feb. 5.

Domenici has not won an election with less than 65 percent of the vote since 1978. Republicans, while acknowledging the results of the new poll, countered that Domenici would have no problem on Election Day.

“Sen. Domenici’s approval ratings have fluctuated over the past months but have always returned to high approval levels,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher said. “We have no doubt that the people of New Mexico overwhelmingly support the Senator and all he does for the state.”

— David M. Drucker

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