Florida governor and 2024 presidential favorite Ron DeSantis came to Carlsbad this past Saturday to keynote a campaign rally for Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti. The rally also featured newly redistricted/gerrymandered CD2 Congresswoman Yvette Herrell, who was a guest speaker. A thousand people attended. Statewide media covered it.

Yet, the mood and tone and coverage of the event all seem somewhat muted. Bringing a GOP presidential frontrunner to campaign for your governor’s race would normally be a great idea; in 2022 in New Mexico, it’s not so simple.

First of all, Ronchetti’s strategy since the end of the primary has been to work to take the center. DeSantis is not a centrist candidate. And it’s unlikely that his far-right message would help Ronchetti in a bluer Albuquerque, where he must make a sizable showing to beat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in November.

Were DeSantis to be the 2024 GOP presidential nominee, it’s unlikely he would carry New Mexico. So why, in a blue state where both the governor’s and the CD2 races seem to slightly favor Democrats, at least by sheer numbers, would you bring a potentially polarizing national figure to the state to stump for you?

Because one thing that Ronchetti and Herrell do need is GOP voter turnout.

They both need every Republican vote along with a fair number of independent and decline-to-state voters. In a midterm election, voter turnout can be lighter. There is additional concern that pro-choice voters will come to the polls in large numbers to support Democrats. So rousing the GOP base in the geographical center of the base, Carlsbad, made sense.

And Ronchetti and Herrell will get much more bounce from the visit than the rather tepid state media coverage would imply. DeSantis has 2.6 million Twitter followers, and thousands of donors. Given the general disdain the far right has traditional media, the social media pickup will carry far. Surprising no one, there was also fundraising tied to the rally.

Will the Democrats use the event to paint both Ronchetti and Herrell as right-wing extremists? Probably. I don’t know that it will be effective. Ronchetti as a campaigner is a convincing chameleon who takes on the persona he wants voters to see. Herrell is an unapologetic conservative who also has a strong track record of working hard for her constituents.

The defeat of the Kansas constitutional ban on abortion in that primary earlier this month by a significant margin in a heavily red state is giving Republicans pause going into the fall campaign season. The governor is already exploiting this in her campaign ads.

Republican candidates everywhere face similar dilemmas: Attract the moderates with more mainline messages about the economy, public safety, education and the like, while still keeping the hard right base motivated enough to show up in a midterm without expressly mentioning abortion if it can be helped.

This could mark a welcome return to the local and regional issues that our state candidates should be addressing to their voters.

But, at least in the governor’s race, I still predict more personal attacks than real issues. In the 2nd Congressional District, Herrell remains a formidable candidate even with a numbers disadvantage post-redistricting. She does have a vulnerability related to the 2020 election certification that her opponent could exploit to turn away independents in her newly redrawn district.

Even if it seemed to give fuel to detractors, even if his message is out of sync with a lot of our state, Governor DeSantis’ visit was a solid win for both Ronchetti and Herrell. They are going to need a big get-out-the-vote effort within the GOP itself to get over the line, and DeSantis’ far-right star power was exploited at the right time (early) and in the right town.