Charles Kuffner, a fellow blogger, poses a good question in a comment about my item yesterday on the Eliot Shapleigh – Dee Margo battle for the El Paso Senate seat:

“Losing Shapleigh (and … it ain’t going to happen) would be the tipping point. How exactly is Margo going to overcome the Dem advantage in this district? David Van Os and Bob Scarborough each got 59% in 2004, for crying out loud. Is there any evidence to suggest she’s [sic] gotten traction, or is this just spin?”

It’s not just spin.

The results in the races Kuffner mentions:
Railroad Commissioner:
Victor Carrillo (R) 60,961 (38.20%)
Bob Scarborough (D) 90,886 (56.96%)
Anthony Garcia (L) 7,710 (4.83%)

Justice, Supreme Court, Place 9
Scott Brister (R) 62,780 (40.23%)
David Van Os (D) 93,239 (59.76%)

Kuffner undoubtedly chose these races because the candidates in both parties were unknown to all but a few voters. Therefore the numbers represent the two parties’ base vote in El Paso–the starting point for any election. But this is not just any election. Most of the time, Republicans do not contest El Paso seriously. This time they are putting time, money, and talent into the race. That changes things. Now it’s my turn to cite a race:

Governor, 1998
George W. Bush (R) 46,035 (50.01%)
Garry Mauro (D) 45,378 (49.29%)
2 others

Bush targeted El Paso County to bolster his presidential prospects in 2000 by proving that he could appeal to Hispanic voters. He didn’t carry it by much–but he carried it. The races Kuffner cited are not conclusive, because the adversaries are not a couple of unknowns. Shapleigh is the incumbent senator. Margo is a prominent businessman in town. His wife, a good friend of Laura Bush, owns an art gallery. Karl Rove’s old firm is handling Margo’s campaign. Do you think that they are not consulting Rove? Both candidates have long-established ties that run throughout the city. Margo has picked up some Democratic support, most notably Sheriff Leo Samaniego. After Samaniego endorsed Margo last spring, the county Democratic Party executive committee struck his name from the party’s membership roll and hall of fame roster.

Would I bet the farm on Margo to win at even odds? I would not. Do I think that Margo has a chance to pull off the upset? I do. And if the Democrats think he doesn’t, they are making a mistake that could prove very costly.