Trump’s New Mexico Rally Previewed 2020 Strategy
Inside the arena, the atmosphere was that of a festival or a concert: The rally-goers I saw were friendly, approachable, and often busy buying Trump campaign T-shirts and buttons—including one for the proposed Space Force. People lined up for hot dogs, popcorn, and pretzels. A campaign worker distributed Latinos for Trump signs. Just after 6:30 p.m. local time inside the fairly small arena—just around 7,000 seats—the warm-up acts whipped up the arriving crowd. Tony Mace, the firebrand sheriff of rural Cibola County, to the west, generated chants of “USA!” when he said he’s tired of liberals, the news media, and efforts to impose new controls on gun ownership.
Steve Pearce, the state’s Republican chairman, claimed that he’s tried to convince the Trump campaign to target the state for 2020 since early this year—contradicting the Axios report—and he touted Trump‘s 2017 tax cut as beneficial to locals.
One attendee, Ralph Sain of Albuquerque, told me the economy is the single most important issue to him.
“The better the economy, the more jobs there are,” said Sain, holding a Latinos for Trump sign. A longtime Republican, Sain denied that Trump is unpopular with Latinos nationally, as polls show, or even nearby, as in El Paso, where the president received the cold shoulder after the August massacre at a Walmart, which killed 22 and wounded nearly as many. Locals had lined Trump’s motorcade route with signs reading, You are not welcome.
“That’s all Beto O’Rourke down there,” Sain said, referring to the influence of the former Democratic House member who’s now running for president. How? I asked. “O’Rourke started those riots down there when Trump was visiting in February,” Sain said. When I told him that I was at both Trump’s rally that month and O’Rourke’s counter-rally, and that there was no rioting, Sain only smiled.
“Hispanics have been against Trump ‘till they were educated,” said the man next to Sain, who declined to give his name. He wore a matching T-shirt and ball cap that read, Trump 2020: Keep liberals crying.
When the president finally took the stage after 7:30 p.m. local time, he delivered a barrage of claims about how his achievements are helping New Mexico, in general—which was slow to recover from the Great Recession and a bust in oil prices—and Latinos, in particular. Trump boasted that thousands of supporters were still outside, unable to get into the Star Center. (A peek outside suggested this was an exaggeration.)
Trump made an economic pitch aimed at the state’s oil and gas industry—even though the industry is centered some 200 miles away from here. He claimed he engineered the U.S.’s rise to number-one in oil and gas production, though this happened under former President Barack Obama, as CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale noted. Trump claimed that the United States is a net energy exporter—though it won’t be until next year, Dale also pointed out. The president accurately described record-low Latino unemployment, but also made the unsubstantiated claim that Latinos support his proposed border wall.