How Donald Trump’s Attack on Susana Martinez Undermines the GOP–and Trump

 header-hoover-institution-fellows1-1By Doug Heye

susana-martinez-headshotAnother day, another Donald Trump attack on a Republican: Speaking at a rally in Albuquerque on Tuesday night, Mr. Trump lashed out at New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, the chairwoman of the Republican Governors Association who has criticized Mr. Trump’s rhetoric about Mexicans.

We have got to get your governor to get going. She’s got to do a better job, OK? Your governor has got to do a better job,” Mr. Trump said, faulting the state’s economy. “She’s not doing the job. Hey–maybe I’ll run for governor of New Mexico, I’ll get this place going.”

Mrs. Martinez, who supported Marco Rubio in the primaries, was not present. By mid-afternoon Wednesday, much coverage had turned from Mr. Trump’s criticism of the GOP governor to his targeting of Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren. But there’s a message here not just for the anti-Trump crowd: This attack hurts Mr. Trump’s efforts to unite the Republican Party and to expand his support outside a core share of Republican primary voters.

Many Republicans–whether elected officials, party operatives, top fundraisers, past Trump opponents, or everyday voters–continue to resist Mr. Trump and see his recent efforts at unity as, at best, halfhearted. Mr. Trump’s broadsides, particularly those devoid of specifics, continue to give those Republicans reasons to stay on the sidelines or to focus on down-ballot races thought to be jeopardized by Mr. Trump’s candidacy.

At a time when Mr. Trump is hemorrhaging support from Hispanics and women–Washington Post polling in March showed that 85% of Hispanics disapprove of Mr. Trump; CNN polling found him viewed negatively by 73% of women–the last thing he needs to do is unnecessarily attack the most powerful Hispanic woman in the Republican Party, who also happens to be one of the most popular governors in a state that Barack Obama carried twice.

Republicans on Capitol Hill are besieged with questions from reporters about Donald Trump every day. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s weekly press conference is dominated by queries about whether Mr. Ryan is moving toward endorsing Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump’s criticism of Susana Martinez is the sort of thing that will continue to hold many Republicans back from supporting him. And for every two steps he takes forward in coalescing the party around him, such attacks represent a proactive step backward.

Tuesday’s rally in Albuquerque was a perfect opportunity for Donald Trump to demonstrate that he is serious about bringing Republicans together. Instead, Mr. Trump showed that he is not ready to act presidential nor to unite the party. Put another way, instead of allowing Democrats’ divisions to dominate the news, Mr. Trump invited the media to continue its year-long focus on Republicans’ internal tensions.

Doug Heye is a former communications director for the Republican National Committee and deputy chief of staff to then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. He is on Twitter: @DougHeye.

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