President Trump heads to New Mexico Monday for a rare campaign rally in a state won by Democrats in 2016.
The president will address supporters near Albuquerque as his advisers claim to see a unlikely political opportunity in the state that has only voted for a Republican president once since 1988 and went for Hillary Clinton by a healthy 8% margin last time around.
Trump famously won the presidency by eking out razor-thin margins in the Rust Belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. He only needs to hold one of those and win all the other states he carried last time to score four more years in the White House.
So what’s Trump doing in a blue-trending state that has the biggest share of Hispanics in the nation?
“I’ve stopped a long time ago trying to figure (Trump) out," said Valerie Plame, the outed ex-CIA agent who is running for an open congressional seat in the state. "Who knows?”
He may be trying to make a play to build his strong political position among rural conservative voters by showing up in one of the few sparsely populated Democratic strongholds.
A Republican congressional candidate scored a narrow victory last week in a North Carolina do-over election that was largely fueled by strong support in rural backwaters of the district — a win that offers a possible blueprint for Trump to modestly expand his electoral coalition next year.
Expect him to talk about guns after Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke made headlines at last week’s that “hell, yes, we’re going to take away your (assault weapons).”
Or maybe he’s trying to show that not all Latino voters are left-leaning Puerto Ricans from New York and he actually won a surprising 28% share of their votes in 2016.
Trump’s cash-flush campaign is also looking for opportunities to just force Democrats to play defense a bit.
The most likely targets for Trump to expand the electoral map is Minnesota. Long a Democratic stronghold, the Land of a Thousand Lakes has been trending redder in recent years and only went for Clinton by a surprisingly narrow 1.5% margin.
New Hampshire, which Trump lost in a squeaker last time, is another target, although it is home to more suburban voters who have turned strongly against the president.
New Mexico is, to put it mildly, more of a heavy lift for Trump. It’s increasingly a pretty solid blue state these days with Democrats snatching the governor’s mansion and one of its three congressional seats away from the GOP in the past two years. George W. Bush is the only Republican to win the state in a presidential contest since his daddy did the same way back in 1988.
But hey, no one thought Wisconsin was in play in 2016, either.
With News Wire Services