Dr. Ben Carson, the man Donald Trump put in charge of his search for a running mate, has confirmed that Trump now has “the list.”
One name, who must be on that list is head and shoulders, figuratively not literally, above the rest.
You can scratch Chris Christie, John Kasich and Newt Gingrich, three of the names that have been bantered about most often. The last thing the real estate mogul needs is another aging white guy on the ticket.
Trump has indicated that he would like to choose someone with political experience. He would be wise to pick a person who is political savvy, but who is not tainted with the smell of the hated Washington establishment. He would be wiser still to pick someone who could appeal to the very voters with whom he is weakest: women and Hispanics.
His best choice is Susanne Martinez. The big question is can he get the New Mexico governor to agree to be his running mate? It will not be an easy sell. Martinez has been critical of Trump’s language and has declined to say if she will vote for him, even after he became the presumptive nominee.
Nevertheless, Trump campaigned on his deal-making and his ability to make the hard-sell.
Martinez, in addition to being New Mexico’s first female governor; is the nation’s first female Hispanic governor. Also, she chairs the Republican Governors Association. Now in her second term, in 2014, she won re-election by a landslide. She has consistently ranked as one of the nation’s most popular governors. Though her approval ratings have fallen since her re-election, she still has more people who approve of her job performance than those who disapprove, in a swing-state no less.
Martinez, a former district attorney, is known as a tough law and order governor. She also takes a hard-line on immigration, though more pragmatic and without the harsh rhetoric of Trump. When she ran in 2010, she made clear her opposition to amnesty and, once elected, she fought to do away with drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants. She also signed an executive order rescinding sanctuary status for illegal immigrants who commit crimes in New Mexico.
As governor, she turned the largest structural deficit in the state’s history into a surplus without raising taxes. Among many other cost-cutting measures, she kept a campaign promise and sold the state’s luxury jet, calling it, “the ultimate symbol of waste and excess.”
New Mexico was heavily dependent on federal spending and was greatly impacted by cut-backs at the national level. Martinez received high marks for implementing economic reforms to help diversify the state’s economy and allow it to compete with its neighbors. She presided over a business tax cut and cut burdensome regulations. She also worked across party lines to get bills passed which stopped penalizing manufacturers for exporting their goods. As a result, New Mexico went from 38th place in the nation to first in export growth.
Her life story is the exact opposite of Donald Trump’s. She is from a hard-working middle class family of Mexican descent. Her father, a former Marine boxing champion and deputy sheriff, started a security guard company. She worked as one of his security guards while getting her education in criminal justice at the University of Texas at El Paso.
Martinez began her political career as a Democrat. In 2012, she wowed the Republican National Convention in Tampa when she told of going to lunch with her husband and some GOP friends who compared her positions with those of the Democrat Party. She said, “When we left that lunch, we got in the car and I looked over at Chuck and said, ‘I’ll be damned – we’re Republicans.’”
Unlike Trump, she is known as a policy wonk. No doubt, her common-sense, plain-spoken ability to articulate the issues will continue to impress conservatives and win over many Democrats as well as some Hispanics.
Last December, she blew it when police were called to quiet a disturbance at a local hotel after her annual staff party. The governor, who was with a group in one of the rooms, was clearly a little tipsy and demanded to know who made the complaint. She has since apologized. If that is the biggest blemish in an otherwise stellar record, than she would be an ideal running mate.
There are some policy differences to be sure, but nothing that cannot be resolved. It remains to be seen if Trump can make what could be his biggest sale.