A day after presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump criticized N.M. Gov. Susana Martinez during a trip to her home state, several national GOP establishment figures publicly defended her.
Among them was Paul Ryan, speaker of the U.S. House. A day that began with rumors that Ryan would endorse Trump instead went in the opposite direction when Ryan said he wouldn’t be rushed into a decision.
And asked about Trump’s criticism of Martinez, Ryan said, “Look, I’ll just leave it at this: Susana Martinez is a great governor. She turned deficits into surpluses. She cut taxes. She’s a friend of mine, and I think she’s a good governor. I will leave it at that.”
The backlash Trump faced was viewed by many as a rejection of a perceived attempt to bully Republicans who haven’t endorsed him to get in line.
Martinez endorsed Marco Rubio when he was still seeking the GOP presidential nomination, and she’s refused to endorse Trump since he became the party’s presumptive nominee. Martinez didn’t attend Trump’s rally in Albuquerque on Tuesday, saying she was too busy.
Trump hit back after that apparent slight.
“Your governor, she has got to do a better job,” Trump said at the rally. He complained about the state’s economy, crime in Albuquerque, and what he called the high number of Syrian refugees being relocated in the state — a claim that simply isn’t true. Trump also criticized the high number of people receiving government assistance in New Mexico and joked that maybe he should run for governor here.
Also defending Martinez on Wednesday, via Twitter, were Rubio:
The truth is @ Gov_Martinez is one of the hardest working and most effective Governors in America. https://t.co/QcADopQCYe
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 25, 2016
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) May 25, 2016
And John Kasich:
.@Gov_Martinez is an outstanding governor who has brought conservative reform to a blue state. (1/2)
— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) May 25, 2016
She’s exactly who our party & nominee should be lifting up and supporting, not tearing down. (2/2)
— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) May 25, 2016
And Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker jumped into the fray. He works with Martinez through the Republican Governors Association (RGA) — she’s the chair and he’s the vice chair. The RGA sent out a statement from Walker:
“From delivering crucial tax reform, standing up to Washington by suing the EPA for federal overreach, turning a deficit into a surplus and making New Mexico the leader in jobs for export growth while increasing the state’s business friendliness, Governor Susana 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,” Walker said. “Governor Martinez also has a dedicated record of helping elect conservative governors across the country, and as RGA Chair this year, she is leading the charge in several states that are in dire need of real leadership, just like she has provided in New Mexico.”
Martinez, meanwhile, seemed perfectly comfortable defending herself. A spokesman said the governor wouldn’t 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,” said Martinez spokesman Mike Lonergan. “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.”
Maritnez, Lonergan said, “doesn’t care about what Donald Trump says about her – she cares about what he says he will do to help New Mexicans. She didn’t hear anything about that today.”
The Democratic Party of New Mexico, on the other hand, said it agreed, for once, with Trump.
“It’s true. Governor Martinez is not doing her job,” the party said in a news release. “Her job is to make sure New Mexico prospers, and all we’ve seen from her administration are attacks on our immigrant communities, a dismal jobs record, and a slew of embarrassing headlines,” which the party said was “not unlike Donald Trump.”
“Under Governor Martinez, New Mexico ranks poorly in child well-being, unemployment, and high school graduation rates,” the Democratic Party said.
The Washington Post examined the situation with an article that began this way:
Glass-ceiling-breaking. History-making. A future Republican leader and maybe even president.
Embarrassing. Palinesque. Caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to Donald Trump.
Depending on who you talk to or what part of her career you focus on, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) is either a rising star or a fallen one.
The article went on to explain why the nation’s first Latina to be elected governor of any state is viewed by many as a star — “Like, a really big star” — and the VP buzz that has followed her for years. But it also highlighted New Mexico’s economic struggles on Martinez’s watch and scandals that have plagued her administration.