We’re four months away from the primary elections in New Mexico—a lifetime in the world of politics.
By the time New Mexicans get to vote for their choice in the already-dwindling field of candidates for president, the races will probably be down to two clear frontrunners in the Democratic and Republican parties. Chances are, they’ll already have the delegate counts they need to win their respective nominations, so this state’s primaries votes for president will be moot.
By the time New Mexicans vote on June 7, some 44 states will have already held their primaries and caucuses. But our vote will definitely count in November, when we could again be a toss-up state, thereby earning us lots of national attention.
As for the party primaries, they might be decided as early as March 1, on Super Tuesday, when 14 states will cast their votes.
I’m of the opinion that, as of this moment, Marco Rubio is flying high on the Republican side as the most viable candidate for the general election in November. Rubio insists he’s the guy who can defeat Hillary Clinton in the general election (assuming she’ll win her own party’s nomination), and he might just be right about that.
Moreover, it seems to me he has a great shot at winning New Mexico, a state with a plurality of its population, or around 48 percent, being Hispanic. Rubio, of course, is also Hispanic.
But his cultural lineage is different. This senator from Florida is a son of Cuban immigrants who came to the U.S. in 1956, in the midst of the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro. New Mexico’s Hispanics are more typically of Mexican and Spanish descent. Cuba is a long way from their heritage.
Plus, New Mexico’s Hispanics are mostly liberal Democrats, while Rubio is a conservative Republican. That doesn’t mean he can’t capture enough Hispanic votes to win in New Mexico. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez pulled in plenty of votes in northern New Mexico, a Democratic stronghold, because of the Hispanic vote, and handily won two statewide elections with an ample crossover vote.
To win New Mexico, Rubio will have to work at it, and so far his campaign hasn’t done much. He’s named a campaign chairperson, state Rep. Monica Youngblood, but that’s about it. Our GOP primary is simply too far away, and ineffectual, to be worrying about.
On the issues, Rubio is quite conservative. He’s pro-gun and against gay marriage. On immigration, he wants to roll back President Barack Obama’s policies by reversing his executive order protecting certain undocumented immigrants from deportation. He opposes sanctuary cities, of which Santa Fe is considered one, and wants to beef up the U.S.’s southern border with more patrols, cameras and sensors, and a wall from Texas to California. And regarding Cuba, from the beginning he’s opposed Obama’s decision to reestablish diplomatic and trade relations.
The Land of Enchantment has a healthy mix of liberals, libertarians and conservatives, and it’s generally the more moderate candidates who win in statewide votes. A candidate on the far right or far left isn’t likely to win the whole state, and that could hurt Rubio’s chances in New Mexico.
He won his U.S. Senate seat with tea party support and blasts Obama and his policies at every turn. Of course, right now he’s stumping for the Republican vote, so he’d be crazy not to tout his conservative credentials. If he wins the GOP nomination, he’ll pivot back toward the middle as best he can.
Perhaps his strongest selling point, which he brings up every chance he can, is that he’s the most electable candidate in the Republican field for the general election in November.
He’s young and forward thinking—he talks about America’s future with optimism instead of reactionary consternation. If Republicans want to win in November they’d better select a candidate with broad appeal, and their best shot just might be Rubio.
I’m guessing we’ll see him starting to pay attention to New Mexico if his candidacy is still standing after Super Tuesday. If that happens, expect a battle to win this state, if not in the primary then certainly in the general election—when every electoral vote, including ours, counts.
Tom McDonald is founder and editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange and editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He may be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.