Wilson, who is stronger than most Republicans among Hispanics and independent voters, gives the GOP a chance for a pick-up in a state likely to remain blue in the presidential race. But looking down the road, the New Mexico GOP may need more prominent Hispanic candidates to have lasting success.
"There is only one path to victory for this Republican Party," New Mexico political analyst Joe Monahan
told Hotline on Call
last month. "They cannot be getting beat 6 out of 10 votes among the most rapidly growing demographic in the Southwest."
Heinrich's Hispanic opponent has at least managed to remain in the race up to the primary. State Auditor Hector Balderas
, a rising Democratic star, entered the race as an underdog against the well-funded Heinrich, who is well-liked in his Albuquerque-based district.
Balderas's campaign has had some bright spots: He turned in a surprisingly strong performance
at the state Democratic convention in March. But an inability to keep pace with Heinrich's fundraising and an unwillingness to go on the attack
against the frontrunner have erased any real possibility of an upset victory.
While Balderas said no one from the state or national Democratic Party attempted to dissuade him from running, he also expressed concern that Democratic leaders haven't done enough to deepen their Hispanic bench.
"I think it's a drastic mistake to want our votes but not trust us to govern," Balderas told Hotline on Call
Like Wilson, Heinrich has performed well among Hispanics in his two House races, and he should comfortably win the Hispanic vote in November.
The projected general election match-up between Wilson and Heinrich would pit two top recruits against each other in what should be one of the premier Senate races of this cycle. But it will be a choice between two Anglo candidates in a state where Hispanics now outnumber whites.