Does Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump really think he can win New Mexico’s five electoral votes?
Campaigns say lots of things, especially in the final scramble, that may or may not be true. So Trump’s claim during an Albuquerque rally on Sunday that internal polling has him “tied in New Mexico” with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton could be a bluff.
But where candidates direct their time and money in the final days matters. And Trump has directed lots of resources to New Mexico.
Trump and GOP vice presidential candidate Mike Pence have both visited the state this week. Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., will make two campaign stops in San Juan County on Friday, including one on the Navajo Nation.
And Trump is spending nearly $200,000 on TV ads in the state.
The Clinton campaign is taking Trump’s play for New Mexico seriously enough that it is spending more than $165,000 on TV ads here.
But a tight race in New Mexico isn’t the only message coming from the Trump campaign. A fundraising email sent Tuesday included this map:
“While we are not taking any state for granted, those colored red are states that we can safely assume will vote for Donald Trump,” Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway wrote in the email. “Blue states favor Hillary. Blank states are too close to call.”
New Mexico is listed as a state that favors Clinton, not one that’s too close to call.
There hasn’t been much public polling in New Mexico because most believe the state favors Clinton. One recent poll had Clinton ahead by 5 percentage points, 45-40, on Oct. 24. We don’t know much about how the survey sample was weighted, so the poll by itself isn’t proof that New Mexico is in play. But it’s reason to pay attention.
Another survey conducted this week had Clinton leading Trump by 8 points in New Mexico. But its methodology is new and experimental, so its reliability isn’t clear.
Many analysts think Clinton is likely to win New Mexico. The website FiveThirtyEight.com, as of today, gives Clinton an 82.3 percent chance of winning here.
The Albuquerque Journal plans to release a new poll of the presidential race in New Mexico on Sunday. We’ll have a better sense of where things stand then.
In the meantime, perhaps its worth considering where in New Mexico the Trump campaign is visiting this week — and how those stops might benefit him in other states.
Pence visited Las Cruces, which is in the El Paso, Texas media market. A number of Trump supporters traveled from El Paso to see Pence, and his rally was covered prominently on El Paso television stations.
Trump Jr.’s visits to Farmington and Shiprock may also help Trump in other states. Clinton has made a play for Arizona — where the polls favor Trump, but not by much. A visit to Shiprock, on the Navajo Nation, will get media coverage throughout the Navajo Nation and could impact Navajo voters in Arizona and Utah as well.
Speaking of Utah, there’s a three-way race there between Trump, Clinton and independent Evan McMullin, a Mormon who’s gained the support of many in the heavily Mormon state. McMullin has a chance of taking red Utah’s electoral votes away from Trump.
The Farmington area has a significant Mormon population. The visit to an evangelical church there by Trump Jr. could also potentially impact voters in nearby Utah.
As for Trump’s Albuquerque visit, it got national attention, blanketed New Mexico in coverage, and hit Southwestern Colorado, which gets it television from Albuquerque. Colorado leans in Clinton’s favor but may also be in play.
Maybe Trump thinks he can win New Mexico. Maybe his campaign’s visits here are also about impacting the vote in surrounding states. It’s worth noting that FiveThirtyEight.com lists Arizona, Colorado and Utah as states to watch closely, but not New Mexico or Texas.
The presidential race has swung widely with the news cycle lately. A Trump victory appeared unlikely a couple of weeks ago, after the release of a 2005 video in which he described sexually assaulting women. So at the time Clinton was expanding her campaign into normally red states.
But the race has tightened in recent days with a series of bad news stories for Clinton, including the re-opening of an FBI probe into her use of a private email server as secretary of state. Now Trump is expanding out a bit.
“With only five days until the election, anything can happen in this volatile campaign. That is why we are mounting a defense against Trump’s campaign,” U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said Thursday in a fundraising email. Heinrich isn’t on the ballot this year, but he’s traveling to Southern New Mexico Friday to campaign for Democratic state legislative candidates.