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National Review: NRSC - Commissioned Poll Suggests GOP’s N.M. Senate Nominee Nella Domenici Has Room to Grow

By: Audrey Fahlberg | June 7, 2024 6:30 AM

No Republican has won a U.S. Senate seat in New Mexico since Pete Domenici in 2002. This time around, Republicans are hoping the late six-term senator’s daughter Nella Domenici, a former Bridgewater Associates CFO and political newcomer, will give Democratic senator Martin Heinrich a run for his money.

This race has not emerged as a top-tier spending target this cycle for Senate Republicans, who are investing most of their resources into redder-leaning battlegrounds like West Virginia, Ohio, and Montana in their campaign to retake the majority. But if Domenici pours enough money into the race and the political conditions are right, the contest could become more competitive than election analysts currently expect.

A Red Oak Strategies poll commissioned by Domenici and the National Republican Senatorial Committee suggests New Mexico Republicans’ nominee has room to grow five months out from Election Day and that her father’s name could help her. 

“Even though 66% of New Mexicans do not know Nella Domenici, 46% agree that Nella’s father, former [senator] Pete Domenici, did a good job for New Mexico and support his daughter running for U.S. Senate,” Domenici’s team wrote in a June 5 strategy memo shared with National Review, based on a May 7–9 survey conducted with 1,800 registered voters. “This is a huge advantage as the campaign begins to deliver Nella’s message across direct voter contact platforms.”

The poll had Heinrich leading Domenici among likely voters by just three points, with a 2.3 percent margin of error, but found Domenici eclipsing his lead after survey respondents “hear positive messages about herself and negative messages about Heinrich.”

Public polling is sparse in this race, given New Mexico’s deep-blue tint and the expectation among election forecasters and political operatives that Heinrich will coast to victory in November. (Sabato’s Crystal Ball and the Cook Political Reportboth rate this contest in safe Democratic territory this cycle.) Heinrich won his first race in 2012 by 5.6 points. Six years later, he defeated his Republican challenger by 23.6 points, although that was in a three-way race with libertarian Senate nominee Gary Johnson, who captured 15.4 percent of the vote.

This cycle, Domenici’s campaign is bullish that Joe Biden’s lackluster favorability ratings could hurt Heinrich. “Biden’s image is 42% favorable, 56% unfavorable. Trump’s image is 39% favorable, 59% unfavorable,” the memo added. “For a state that Biden won by 10.8 points, this collapse in the sitting president’s image should be alarming for Democrats hoping Biden will sweep the state again and carry any down-ballot Democrat across the finish line.”

Domenici’s personal wealth and business experience at Bridgewater, Credit Suisse, and Citadel Investment group could pay dividends on the spending front, particularly if she’s able to swing some big checks from Wall Street contacts. (One contributor, Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman, already stands out on her most recent Federal Election Commission report.) 

If she can level the playing field on the fundraising front (she had roughly $1 million on hand compared with his $4.4. million as of mid May), Democratic spending groups may be forced to divert more money to New Mexico to defend Heinrich on what should be reliably blue turf. That could pull Senate Democratic resources away from the long list of much more competitive battleground states that will be crucial to trimming their losses.

Domenici went on air with her first ad of the cycle late last month, and Heinrich began attacking her on the air this week. Her general-election campaign is expected to hit Heinrich on energy policy, immigration, and public safety, and stake out a centrist position on abortion that opposes a federal ban on the procedure, according to her campaign’s issues page.

“Nella Domenici is well-positioned to take on Martin Heinrich and make this race competitive. New Mexico is a race to watch,” said NRSC spokeswoman Maggie Abboud.


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