New Mexico’s Lieutenant Governor, Democrat Diane Denish, figured that she could just follow outgoing Democratic Governor Bill Richardson into the top spot without too much trouble, but it hasn’t exactly worked out that way.  First, her campaign made a couple of missteps, including one doozy where Denish aired an attack ad against Susana Martinez that featured a teacher who later turned out to also be the wife of a kidnapper that Martinez had prosecuted.  Denish then had Barack Obama campaign for her, who endorsed her while mispronouncing her name.

That adds up to disaster, and Survey USA captures it clearly:

In an election for New Mexico Governor today, 10/15/10, Republican Susana Martinez defeats Democrat Diane Denish 54% to 42%, according to this latest exclusive KOB-TV poll conducted by SurveyUSA. Martinez’ advantage is even stronger among voters who tell SurveyUSA they have already returned a ballot.

Martinez is at or above 50% among both men and women, young and old, upper income and lower income. Denish leads among Hispanics and Native Americans, but not by enough to overcome Martinez’ 2:1 advantage among whites. Denish holds just 71% of Democratic voters; 27% defect. Independents break Republican. Among the handful of New Mexico voters who think health care and education are the most important issue in the election, the Democrat leads. But among the majority of voters who think the economy is the most important issue, the Republican leads.

Martinez leads in all age demographics, in the two income demographics, in the two general regions used by Survey USA, and among those who have already voted and those who have not yet voted.  Among those who have already cast ballots, Martinez leads by 24 point, 60/36, which means that each day that passes, Denish has less time and more ground to make up.  It’s a vicious cycle for the Democrat, who needs a huge gamechanger but may not have enough time even if one arrives, thanks to early voting.

How did Martinez get so far ahead?  Richardson’s administration has had a dark cloud over it for some time regarding corruption, and that obviously doesn’t help his second in command.  Martinez beats Denish on the top issues as well.  While Denish has a significant lead in health care (58/40) and an overwhelming lead on education (73/22), Denish trails badly on the top issues of this cycle: the economy (41/57), federal deficits and spending (14/83), and immigration (32/61).

This race appears over, and it looks like Republicans will get New Mexico back.  That may have some impact on the House races as well, perhaps especially Steve Pearce.