Why Donald Trump’s Attacks on a GOP Governor Are ‘Stupid Politics’
Policy + Politics

Why Donald Trump’s Attacks on a GOP Governor Are ‘Stupid Politics’

© Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Nearly a month after his last rival dropped out of the presidential race, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has done nothing to moderate his incendiary rhetoric, even when it comes to a fellow member of the GOP.

Speaking at a campaign rally in New Mexico on Tuesday night, the billionaire turned his barbs on the state’s Republican governor, Susana Martinez, for skipping the event.

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“You’ve got to get your governor to do a better job. She’s not doing her job,” Trump said, adding that the number of people on food stamps in the state had “tripled” on Martinez’s watch.

“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,” the billionaire said at the event, which featured major clashes outside between anti-Trump protestors and local police.

“Syrian refugees are being relocated in large numbers to New Mexico. If I was governor, that wouldn’t be happening,” according to Trump, renewing his push for a temporary ban on refugees.

GOP reaction to the mogul’s barbs was probably best summed up Wednesday by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who told MSNBC that the scolding was “stupid politics.”


For starters, Trump couldn’t have picked a worse target. Martinez is seen as a rising star within the Republican Party, and openly badgering her for her support rubbed many, including some of Trump’s vanquished primary rivals, the wrong way.

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It’s likely that many Republicans feel the same way DeLay and others do, which is a major threat to GOP unity going into the general election. Party elders are already worried their prospective nominee will be a brick around the necks of Republicans down the ballot and might endanger control of Congress.

Martinez herself is the chair of the Republican Governors Association, a key component of the party that can help raise money and drive voter turnout in November. If the head of the crucial organization is at odds with the standard-bearer it only increases the chances of uncertainty at the polls.

There’s also no getting around the fact that Martinez is Hispanic and a woman, two voting groups that overwhelmingly disapprove of Trump and could have outsized influence on Election Day.

A new Fox News Latino poll released last week found likely Democratic standard-bearer Hillary Clinton has an overwhelming advantage over the billionaire among Latino voters, by a three-to-one margin. It’s hard to imagine that gap growing wider, but comments like the ones Tuesday night are sure not going to do anything to close it.

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And Martinez wasn’t the only woman Trump chided Tuesday night. He labeled Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as “Pocahontas,” a reference to her claims of having Native American heritage, and called Clinton a “low-life.”

“I will never say this but she screams and drives me crazy,” Trump said. “I can’t listen.”

It’s worth noting that Martinez isn’t backing away from the fight. On Wednesday, her office put out a statement that said she isn’t going to be “bullied” into supporting a candidate.

“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,” according to Mike Lonergan, the governor’s press secretary.

“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,” he said. “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’s disappointed that she didn’t hear anything about that last night.”

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Meanwhile, Trump senior adviser Barry Bennett backhandedly expressed regret over the episode, adding that efforts to reach out to Martinez had been rejected.

"She's been more than just not talking about Trump, she's been pretty vehemently against Trump the whole time and I think there was an attempt to try to sit down with her and it was refused," he told CNN.

"I don't know who's giving her political advice, but I don't think she's getting very good advice," he added. "I wish that none of this had happened, I wish that she would have endorsed the nominee of our party like everybody else."