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Obama's play for New Mexico

From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan
New Mexico might be a Feb. 5 state to watch for Obama. The candidate made two stops in the state on Friday, in Albuquerque and Santa Fe -- an unusual amount of time to spend in just one state when the sand slips ever faster through the hourglass to Super Tuesday.

But New Mexico appears to be a key pick-up opportunity for Obama, who has six offices spread across the state. The campaign has shifted their Iowa get-out-the-caucus model to the several Feb. 5 states -- like New Mexico -- that will hold caucuses rather than primaries. The hope is that organizational strength can overpower Clinton's name recognition in these states. (It's worth noting, however, that while New Mexico is a technically a caucus, it operates more like a primary than the caucuses we saw in Iowa and Nevada.) 

Obama also has claimed that once Latinos, who make up 40% of New Mexico's population, get to know him, they'll prefer his record over Clinton's. That could explain yesterday's economic policy town hall, where Obama delved deeper into policy issues than he normally does, while also bringing an array of his economic advisers and New Mexico co-chairs up on the stage with him to testify to his prowess on managing the economic downturn. Obama told the crowd that he was the first candidate in the race to offer a middle-class tax cut and he compared Hillary Clinton's economic stimulus plan to George Bush's, because it had originally not contained a tax cut for working families. 

Using the subprime mortgage crisis to appeal to the Latino and African American population in the state, Obama told them that of the mortgages defaulted on, 40% were by Latino homeowners and more than 50% were owned by African Americans. He used the statistic to remind the audience that his stimulus plan contains a proposal to create a fund that will buy the mortgages of homeowners who were the target of predatory lenders.

At a rally in Santa Fe later in the day, Obama also hit economic themes but mostly stuck to his stump speech. The crowd there, despite New Mexico being a majority minority state, was largely white. And in an appeal that you don't usually hear of on the stump, Obama met with the leaders of more than ten Native American tribes before he began his event. Obama has a long list of Native American supporters in the state, and made a point to mention poverty in their communities in his stump speech.

Like in Iowa, reaching out to smaller niche groups could make a difference for Obama. Though Native Americans make up only 10% of the state's population, the proportional allocation of delegates should Obama win caucuses in Native American areas could help his delegate total. As the Senator said in a press conference today, "This is increasingly a race for delegates."

There's no better proof that this race is about delegates than the fact that I'm writing this dispatch from Boise, ID, where there are 12 delegates up for grabs. The Obama campaign was willing to fly two and a half hours from Albuquerque to Boise and spend the morning here doing a rally in the hopes of picking up delegates... And yet there was just one event in California...