Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Another NM Gov in National Spotlight

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
December 2, 2010

During the past campaign, I said several times, to anyone willing to listen, that at least whoever got elected governor wasn’t going to be focused on ascending to national office — as was Gov. Bill Richardson during his first few years in office.

No matter what you thought about the political stances or the personalities of Republican Susana Martinez or Democrat Diane Denish, it seemed both of them were down-to-earth and not likely to be using the governor’s office as a springboard to national power, crafting every news release and press conference for future use as a sound bite in a debate in Des Moines or Manchester.

But now, just a month after the election — and a month before the inauguration — I’m beginning to wonder.

If Martinez isn’t actively thinking about making a splash on the national political scene, it’s not that some national pundits aren’t egging her on to do so.

It started almost as soon as she won the election. On Nov. 6, Molly Ball and Carol Lee, writing in The Politico, listed Martinez among possible GOP vice presidential nominees, saying “Democrats regard Martinez, a former prosecutor who is the first female Hispanic governor in U.S. history, as downright dangerous.” The writers quoted an unnamed Democratic pollster who said Republicans “would be fools not to look at her.”

Writing in the online Huffington Post, blogger Keli Goff listed Martinez as “one of the five women who mattered” in the 2010 elections — along with Sarah Palin, Michelle Obama, South Carolina Gov.-elect Nikki Haley and White House aide Valerie Jarrett. “Like her GOP grizzly sister Haley, expect to see Martinez move front and center onto the national stage as one of the new faces of the GOP,” Goff wrote, “and with New Mexico being a swing state, don’t be surprised if, like another novice female governor two years ago, she emerges on the shortlist of 2012 GOP vice-presidential candidates.”

Last week there was a glowing piece in The Washington Post in which columnist Ruben Navarrette called Martinez “one of the GOP’s brightest stars” and predicted “Susana Martinez will be one of the country’s most consequential elected officials.”

In an appearance on CNN, host John King said Martinez was part of the “changing the face of the Republican Party.” She did better in that interview than she did in an interview with Latina magazine. There she had to be reminded by reporter what the Dream Act is. (It would allow children of illegal immigrants to stay in the country as long as they go to college or perform military service.)

The drumbeat continued this week with Matt Lewis in the online Politics Daily. In an article headlined, “Why the Next Republican VP Nominee Will Likely Be Hispanic,” Lewis said, “Republicans are now in the enviable position of having a new generation of qualified Hispanic leaders to choose from. The two most obvious picks would be Florida Sen.-elect Marco Rubio and New Mexico Gov.-elect Susana Martinez.”

Similar to Lewis’ main point that the next GOP veep candidate probably will be Hispanic, Goff, in a separate Huffington piece, argued, “the recent roar of Mama Grizzlies nationwide has made it all but assured that for the second presidential campaign in a row, the GOP will have a woman on the ticket. They certainly have plenty of attractive candidates to choose from.” The first two she lists are U.S. Sen.-elect Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and a certain district attorney from Las Cruces.

It’s a long way to 2012. All this praise and high predictions are taking place well before Martinez has even filled most of her top positions, presented her budget proposal, had her first fight with the Legislature or made any of the “bold changes” she’s promised.

Martinez told Latina magazine, when asked about possible national aspirations, “There’s a lot of work to be done in New Mexico and that’s where my commitment truly is. To make sure we get this right.”

But remember that other guy who always insisted being New Mexico governor was “the greatest job in the world” — even as he was spending considerable time, money and effort doing his best to get out of here?