Polling & Trends Show Herrell at Risk

Image Vasquez Leading Polls Herrell at Risk per National Trends

Ripple effects of Supreme Court case being felt in primaries. Evette Herrell Congressional seat at risk of flipping…

A new poll in the race for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District shows incumbent Republican Yvette Herrell trailing Democrat Gabe Vasquez by one point and earning only 44% of the vote in an initial head to head – a dangerous position for any incumbent. Vasquez’s lead expands to four points after each candidate is introduced. The poll was conducted by Global Strategy Group and shared exclusively to National Journal Hotline, which noted that, after redistricting, Trump leaning Republican Herrell is one of the most vulnerable Republican members in the country.

Redistricting moved the 2nd Congressional district from a Trump +12 to Biden +6 district and that is reflected in these results. Vasquez leads Herrell 45% to 44% in the initial ballot and this lead extends to 49% to 45% after voters hear profiles of each candidate.

This is a dangerous position for any incumbent, but it should be particularly worrying for Herrell that Vasquez opens such a lead even without most voters knowing who he is, as he does not have the name recognition she has.

NY-19 and lesson of similarities to the Herrell’ race. It was supposed to be a sobering reminder of the Democrats’ midterm prospects, with polls in New York’s 19th Congressional District showing Republican Marc Molinaro leading Democrat Pay Ryan by between three and eight percentage points in a special election to replace Rep. Anthony Delgado, who left to serve as Lt. Governor of New York.

Instead, Ryan defeated his opponent 51.9 to 48.1, or around four points, even outperforming how Biden did in the same district in 2020 by nearly two and a half points

There have been four special House races since the Dobbs decision came down in June, and each has swung sharply to the Democrats. According to figures posted by Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, in Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District, which Trump won by 11 points, the Republican only won it by five, meaning a six points shift; in Minnesota’s 1st, a similar six point shift occurred; in New York’s 23rd, there was a four point shift. While in those elections the shift wasn’t enough to notch a win for the Democrats, in New York’s 19th, enthusiasm and turnout among Democratic and independent voters was enough to deliver one.

Most observers are correctly crediting pro-choice voters for the shift, and the race itself was something of a referendum on abortion rights. After Dobbs came down, Ryan went all-in on the abortion question, unveiling new campaign signs, styled white on pink, that said “CHOICE IS ON THE BALLOT.” Ryan also leaned heavily into the issue in his ads against Molinaro, who personally opposes abortion and voted against abortion rights as a state legislator. Ryan called the rollback of reproductive rights part of the “existential threat to our democracy” with his very first ad asking, “How can we be a free country if the government tries to control women’s bodies?”

Molinaro tried hard to avoid the question of abortion altogether, saying that after Dobbs it was now a state issue—and thus a nonissue in abortion rights friendly New York. He also insisted that he opposes a national ban on abortion and wants the question left to the states. Molinaro instead chose to focus on the economy and crime and even promised that his winning wouldn’t change the balance of power in the House. The Republican Party spent heavily in the district to win it, too. The National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund surged $2.25 million late into the campaign with anti-Ryan and pro-Molinaro ads.

It wasn’t enough. The widely expected red wave, built on anger around high gas and food prices and low Biden approval numbers, crashed against a new and growing blue wall of voters seeking to defend the right of bodily autonomy and abortion. Since the Kansas referendum shocker, Democratic turnout, particularly among younger female voters, has played a significant factor in elections; in New York’s 19th, it was enough to be decisive.

Polls are failing to predict the effect of Dobbs

It may be time to question the underlying assumptions of many polls, especially given what we saw in Kansas and the four House races since. In Kansas, a poll taken in July post-Dobbs showed the “yes” votes on the amendment to remove abortion protections from the state constitution was beating the “no” votes by a margin of 47 to 43. That same poll, however, held some hidden messages that many failed to notice. In particular, young people aged 18 to 34 were 75 percent opposed to the amendment, and people aged 35 to 44 were 52 percent opposed.

In NY-19, the polls were also way off. One internal Democratic poll, taken just week before the election, showed their candidate trailing the Republican by three points. And another internal Democratic poll, released on the day of the election, showed him trailing by eight.

Deep into the poll numbers younger voters are rejecting the Trump leaning candidates.

Digging into the numbers, the data apparently was heavily weighted toward older voters, with respondents over the age of 50 comprising 73 percent of respondents. While the poll no doubt adjusted for this sample difference, its baseline assumptions around turnout were likely a massive underweight for women and younger voters. Indeed, if these voters wind up turning out in much higher numbers than expected everywhere, a lot of poll assumptions are going to be thrown out of whack by it.

What does that mean for Herrell? 

In order for Herrell to carry a win she will need to moderate her messaging and distance herself from Trump ideology or the younger women and men will make a difference this election with the Redistricting that occurred. She can count on Otero County however the areas outside of Otero County will grow more hostile as the messages of each candidate is heard.

Herrell does not seem to believe younger more engaged voters will participate and vote against her as she is rallying with elders and some controversial within the Republican establishment. She rallied with conservative star Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis  in Carlsbad and has a planned rally with Mike Huckabee in Las Cruces. She will need to tread lightly in the rhetoric of Huckabee of it will further engage those moderate Republican and Democratic women and well as Independents to desert her.

The national trend is a 4% uptick in younger more educated voters who lean middle to middle left, Herrell is not doing herself any favors in aligning with these national big gun names. A historical review of New Mexico politics show New Mexicans typically vote New Mexico first and are less than impressed with national political personalities and their endorsements.

Herrell is in the most difficult race of her political career and would be well advised to moderate her image in order to hold onto the seat she holds dear.

Sources New York Analysis Jay Kuo, Herrell polling data Global Strategy Group. 

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