Just a few days ago, Donald Trump told a rally in New Mexico that Susana Martinez was performing so poorly as governor that he might have to run to replace her. Yesterday, Trump called a reporter from the Santa Fe New Mexican not to announce his gubernatorial bid, but to praise Martinez — in order to get her endorsement. Aaaaannnnnd … he might still get it:
In a stunning reversal of rhetoric and tone, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Thursday said he respects New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and wants her endorsement. Trump’s comments in a phone interview with The New Mexican came just days after he castigated Martinez in front of 8,000 people in Albuquerque, saying her job performance was so poor that he might have to run for governor of New Mexico.
Trump’s criticisms of Martinez turned to praise Thursday, signs of their monthslong war thawing to a détente.
“I’d like to have it,” Trump said in a phone interview when asked if he wanted Martinez’s support. “I respect her. I have always liked her.”
A week ago, Trump had this to say about Martinez:
“Since 2000, the number of people on food stamps in New Mexico has tripled,” he said during a campaign stop in Albuquerque. “We have to get your governor to get going. She has to do a better job, OK? She’s not doing the job.
“Hey, maybe I’ll run for governor of New Mexico. I’ll get this place going. We’ve got to get her moving. Come on, let’s go governor.”
Trump also falsely accused her of bringing in Syrian refugees to resettle in the state.
“Always” doesn’t go as far as it used to go, eh? Robert Nott reports that Trump called to chat after Martinez still left the door open to supporting the Republican nominee. In order to get that support, Trump has to get more specific about military bases and federal laboratories in the state, Martinez said. What will Trump do for New Mexico? That’s the basis for getting an endorsement, but Martinez tells the reporter that she’s sure about one thing — she won’t be voting for Hillary Clinton:
Sounds as though the chair of the Republican Governors Association can still be convinced to issue public support for Trump. If it comes to pass, it will be the strangest endorsement of the cycle. People ripped Marco Rubio for offering what in reality was tepid support for Trump after calling him a “con man,” but Rubio had pledged to publicly support the GOP nominee as part of a series of agreements meant to trap Trump. When Ted Cruz eventually endorses Trump, the same will be the case — and he will, he will, because Cruz also wants to have the party behind him in his next election. Paul Ryan is a party leader, tied into the national party structure, and his support was also inevitable, and Trump took care never to attack Ryan personally.
That’s not the case for Martinez. When Trump attacked her last week, she was essentially a non-combatant in the presidential primary. She has no pledge to keep, and Trump’s attack on her while campaigning in her home state clearly intended to do her damage with an electorate she still has to govern. In one sense, leaving the door open to an endorsement on the basis of mundane backyard politics is a recognition that the contest is over, but it still looks like a cave after last week.
Martinez shouldn’t let Trump off the hook that easily. As Trump seems to have belatedly realized, he needs her a lot more than she needs him.