Is there any conceivable strategic value to doing this? Martinez hasn’t endorsed him, has criticized him for what he’s said about immigration, and made a point of skipping his rally last night. She doesn’t like him, so naturally he doesn’t like her. But that doesn’t answer my question. What’s the strategic value of attacking a Republican governor, at an event held in her own state, when job one for Trump right now is unifying the party? Martinez isn’t just any governor either. She’s the chair of the Republican Governors Association this year and she’s the first Hispanic woman to govern a state in the U.S. She’s also term-limited so she’s under no electoral pressure to get onboard the Trump train. She needs to be wooed, not threatened, and she’s worth wooing because the support of the country’s most prominent Hispanic woman politician is obviously worth something to Trump in the general election. The way to play this is to be gracious and complimentary of her despite her disdain and then wait to see if the olive branch is accepted.
Instead he walked into the rally last night with a list of criticisms of her that he read at the podium. And not even a smart list. It’s true that food stamps have increased in New Mexico since 2000, but that’s true across the country. And Martinez has opposed accepting more Syrian refugees. No wonder her spokesman hit back hard:
Mike Lonergan, Martinez’s press secretary, responded to Trump’s attacks in a statement late Tuesday night: “Apparently, Donald Trump doesn’t realize Governor Martinez wasn’t elected in 2000, that she has fought for welfare reform, and has strongly opposed the President’s Syrian refugee plan. But the pot shots weren’t about policy, they were about politics. And the Governor will not be bullied into supporting a candidate until she is convinced that candidate will fight for New Mexicans. Governor Martinez doesn’t care about what Donald Trump says about her – she cares about what he says he will do to help New Mexicans. She didn’t hear anything about that today.”
That’s the only explanation that makes sense besides Trump throwing a tantrum here out of pure spite for being snubbed. Maybe he’s sending a message to other Republicans who are holding out on endorsing him by showing them that they’ll be attacked on the stump too if they don’t get onboard — and many of those Republicans, unlike Martinez, aren’t term-limited. They’ve got something to lose by alienating Trump voters. Then again, they’ve got something to lose too if they hug Trump too closely and he ends up turning toxic to swing voters over the course of the campaign. Some incumbents are destined to keep their distance, whether for reasons of pure electoral dynamics (e.g., Mark Kirk, running for reelection in deep blue Illinois) or principle (e.g., Mike Lee, running for reelection in deep red Utah). Is Trump going to hit them too? How insane would it be to see the GOP nominee this summer and fall essentially campaigning against incumbents in his own party who’ve chosen to keep their distance? Does this guy not understand that, his Democratic leanings notwithstanding, a Republican House and Senate are still more likely to do his bidding as president out of blind partisanship than Democratic majorities are?