BY JOE MONAHAN
Donald Trump’s blistering attack on Gov. Susana Martinez’s handling of the state’s economy, combined with her refusal to endorse his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, appears to be costing her dearly.
We can report that statewide polling conducted for a conservative political action committee the day after Trump’s downtown Albuquerque rally (and semiriot) showed Republicans abandoning Martinez in droves, spiking her unfavorable rating to a record high.
Her approval rating prior to the Trump appearance had already dropped below the important 50 percent mark and rested at an historic low of 47 percent, according to a PPP survey. This new poll, of which we hope to be able to report full details soon, indicates Martinez is headed lower, considerably lower, thanks to one Donald Trump.
Martinez also takes a hit in the survey among independents, many of whom lean conservative. Her Democratic support had previously tanked, in large part because of the ill-fated holiday staff “Pizz-zah” party in December. The Trump remarks had no noticeable impact on them. But her Republican support that had most recently been in the mid to high 70s crashed to a stunning 57 percent.
While it’s highly probable that it is Martinez’s refusal to endorse the nominee of her party that is driving Republican anger toward her, the economy is playing a role as well. It was one of the reasons that led to a major intraparty defeat of a key Martinez political ally at the May GOP convention. Former New Mexico GOP Chairman Harvey Yates decisively ousted longtime GOP National Committeeman and Martinez ally Pat Rogers from the position. In doing so, Yates said: “We can bring the party to unity, but come the next gubernatorial election, if (the economy) isn’t changed, we’re going to be held accountable.”
In the wake of the Trump attacks on Martinez, several prominent national Republicans rose to her defense but notably did not offer a direct defense of her economic policies.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker touted her election prowess: “Governor Martinez has effectively driven conservative reforms in a blue state won twice by President Obama, while winning re-election by the largest margin by a Republican in state history.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, whom Martinez endorsed for president, tweeted: “The truth is @ GovMartinez is one of the hardest working and most effective governors in America.”
The truth is Trump is right. The economy here is a mess. How much a governor bears responsibility can be argued but not the facts. Trump zeroed in on Albuquerque’s high unemployment and loss of manufacturing jobs. Both are indisputable.
Then he offered a criticism of Martinez’s stewardship, which could be disputed, saying, “The number of people on food stamps in New Mexico has tripled” since 2000.
Martinez’s office promptly retorted: “Apparently, Donald Trump doesn’t realize Gov. Martinez wasn’t elected in 2000, that she has fought for welfare reform.”
While Trump may have errantly tried to imply that the skyrocketing use of food stamps has occurred entirely under Martinez, who took office in 2011, he got the big picture right. The economy under Martinez has continued to sputter and the welfare state dramatically expand.
Here was the food stamp story in November 2010, the month Martinez was first elected: “The percentage of the state’s population receiving food stamps jumped 3.2 points to 19.4 percent over a year’s time, from November 2009 to November 2010. New Mexico recorded the largest percentage increase in the nation in people receiving food stamps from November of 2009 to November of 2010,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
We checked the stats from the state Human Services Department for January of this year and found that since Martinez has taken office, the number of food stamp recipients soared to a record high, at least for that month. Some 514,000 New Mexicans were receiving the food assistance in January. With a state population of 2.086 million as of 2014, it means 24.7 percent of the state’s residents are now on food stamps, far more than when she took over.
“It’s your governor’s fault.” Trump bellowed to the throng at his downtown Convention Center rally. “We have to get your governor and get going. She’s got to do a better job, OK? Your governor has got to do a better job.”
With a quarter of the state’s population having incomes low enough to qualify for food stamps, someone’s not doing their job.
Joe Monahan is a veteran of New Mexico politics. His daily blog can be found at joemonahan.com.
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