New Mexico has grown more Democratic as its Hispanic population has increased. Hispanics make up 46 percent of the state’s population. Mr. Bush was competitive there partly because he did well among Hispanic voters, winning 44 percent in 2004. In 2008, by contrast, Senator John McCain of Arizona won just 30 percent of the Hispanic vote.
Spanish-speaking enclaves in northern New Mexico trace their heritage back to the Spanish explorers of the 1500s, and many families have been American citizens for generations. As a result, Hispanic turnout tends to be higher in the north than in southwest New Mexico, where recent immigrants from Mexico and Central and South America are more common.
Beyond the growing Latino population, Mr. Obama’s margin in New Mexico was helped by the state’s large American Indian presence, which is 10 percentof New Mexico’s population and which was determinedly courted by the Obama campaign in 2008.
New Mexico might be even more Democratic if not for idiosyncratic Albuquerque, the state’s only real metropolis. One reason Albuquerque might be more politically competitive than other big cities, Ms. Sierra said, is that nearly one-fourth of its workers are employed by the government, and many of those jobs are defense-related. Sandia National Laboratories and Kirtland Air Force Base are both in Albuquerque.
I would argue that government workers are likely to have a vested interest in the current administration, which was Bush in 2004 (and he won) and Obama in 2012, whereas in 2000 and 2008 neither candidate was an incumbent, and in both instances a Democrat won the state. So, it may be that government workers are the true swing voters in New Mexico.
The Bottom Line
Mr. Obama is a 92 percent favorite in New Mexico, according to the current FiveThirtyEight forecast. The model projects the president will receive 55 percent to Mr. Romney’s 44 percent, an 11-point margin. That would be a closer race — if not exactly close — compared to 2008.