Is Obama's Ground Game Shifting N.M.?

New Mexico calls itself "The Land of Enchantment."

But in politics, it's "the land of the photo finish." Al Gore won there eight years ago by 366 votes - and George W. Bush won there in 2004 by 5,988 votes, CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield reports.

But when Sen. John McCain went to New Mexico last weekend, he found himself behind by as much as 13 points in a recent poll. Why?

One key: Demographics. New Mexico has the largest percentage of Hispanic voters of any state in the union - more than 37 percent. And Sen. Barack Obama is leading among that group by better than 3 to 1.

"Most often Hispanics in New Mexico are very concerned about jobs and the economy and those domestic issues, but this time it is just out-ranking everything else," said Christine Sierra of the University of New Mexico.

Another key: Geography. The Obama campaign in New Mexico has reached beyond the traditional democratic strongholds of Albuquerque and Santa Fe and focused on rural communities, heavily Hispanic communities like Espanola to the north; in fact Obama was there in September with a blunt political message:

"To the Hispanic community - I want you to start actually voting your numbers," Obama said.

"Strategically and geographically Espanola is the best way to reach out to all the remote areas within northern New Mexico," said Mayor Joe Maestas.

And the Obama ground game, says Maestas, is unprecedented.

"His campaign has 39 offices statewide, in comparison to less than 10 for John Kerry in 2004. Barack Obama's total is as much as four times that of the McCain campaign," he said.

That outreach has swelled Obama's corps of volunteers in the town of 10,000.

"We're just honored that he even stopped in our community and so we're kind of we feel like we want to repay that courtesy by volunteering and get directly involved," said Obama supporter Albert Cata.

But McCain's campaign is banking on the socially conservative leanings of many Hispanics here:

"The majority of Hispanics in New Mexico are Catholic, pro-family, pro-life and I believe he does represent our values," said Cecilia Martinez Salazar.

Those values, plus McCain's Western, war-hero background, would likely have made him highly competitive in most years against most opponents.

But this is a very different year.
  • Jeff Greenfield

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