A review of new polling data released this week reveals some signs of trouble for Democrats trying to hold Senate seats for their party in New Mexico and Montana.
A bipartisan survey of registered voters conducted at the beginning of the month by Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Assoc. showed matchups between the likely nominees within the margin of error in both places.
In New Mexico, Democratic Rep. Martin Heinrich leads former Republican Rep. Heather Wilson by one point -- 45 percent to 44 percent -- in the survey.
It's the first non-automated public poll of the matchup between the two frontrunners. Both face competitive primaries but neither of their respective challengers has proven to be much of a force thus far.
There's more troubling news for Democrats to be found in Gallup's 2011 Daily Tracking data of President Obama
's approval rating released on Tuesday. According to the data, Obama's average approval rating among adults in the state stood at 41.7 percent last year, below the national average of 44 percent. What's more, Obama's numbers dropped by almost seven points in the Land of Enchantment from 48.6 percent in 2010. In only three states was the drop steeper, percentage-wise.
Considering the Democratic tilt of the state, it's troubling news for the party. Obama won New Mexico by 15 points -- 57 percent to 42 percent -- over Sen. John McCain
, R-Ariz., in 2008. The latest voter registration figures also favor the party. At the end of 2011, 49 percent of registered voters were Democrats and 32 percent were Republicans.
Gallup's Montana numbers are also cause for concern. Obama's approval rating was just 33.8 percent among adults there in 2011, placing the Treasure State in the bottom ten for the president.
Meanwhile, the POS/FM3 survey showed a razor-thin matchup between Democratic Sen. Jon Tester
and Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg
. In the poll, Rehberg leads Tester 46 percent to 43 percent.
Unlike New Mexico, we've seen more live-caller polling on Montana, and survey after survey has shown a very tight race, so it doesn't appear too much has changed in the race from looking at the POS/FM3 poll.
A separate poll conducted by POS for American Crossroads
from Jan. 9-10 showed Rehberg with an even wider 53 to 42 percent lead. That poll was of likely voters while the joint POS/FM3 survey was of registered voters.
Considering that a major part of the Republican strategy against Tester and Henirich will involve tying them to Obama, the president's numbers in both places are worthy of close attention. It's worth bearing in mind that Obama's approval rating has ticked up nationally since the Gallup data was gathered, so it's not entirely up to date. That said, the data was not trending his way for much of the last year.
The Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll of 400 registered voters each in New Mexico and Colorado was conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Assoc. (D)/Public Opinion Strategies (R) from Jan. 2-5 and Jan. 7 carries a margin of error +/- 4.9 percent.
The Gallup results are based on interviews conducted for Gallup's Daily tracking from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2011. 1138 adults were surveyed in Montana and 1641 adults were surveyed in New Mexico.