Susana for prez in 2016? Hard to say

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By Hal Rhodes

It was about this time last year that political prognosticators, here and elsewhere, started to busy themselves with speculation that 2012 could prove to be a breakout year for Susana Martinez.
We were headed into an election year, they noted. And not just any election year either.  This was the beginning of a presidential election year in which the movers and shakers of Martinez’s Republican Party were bent on defeating the incumbent Democratic president.
At the time a whole gaggle Republicans were still in the running for their party’s presidential nomination and it was anybody’s guess who would ultimately prevail.
But vice presidential nominees don’t run for that job. They are picked by the head of the party’s ticket. And before they are picked, they are “mentioned” by pundits and politicos, for whom speculating about potential vice presidential running mates is a quadrennial ritual.
Thus was it that Susana Martinez, first woman to be elected governor in New Mexico, first Hispanic woman to be elected in any state, enjoyed a flurry of “mentioning” as a prospective Republican vice presidential nominee in the 2012 fall election.
For some Republicans, the “demographics” of a Martinez-for-vice-president boomlet were alluring — she’s a woman and she’s Hispanic, two voting groups with which the GOP has a somewhat dicey record.
Moreover, at the start of 2012, New Mexico was still being billed as a “battleground state” and its five electoral votes might be the margin of victory in a tight race.
Now, in all honesty, it was a stretch to believe a Susana Martinez vice presidential nomination had a prayer, and to the governor’s credit she quickly shot all such speculation down.
Nor, as speculation goes, was it a lucid calculation.
Even if Martinez had wanted the No. 2 spot on the GOP ticket this year, the odds of her getting it were slim. Only four years earlier another woman who had yet to complete the second year of her first term as governor of a western state had been the Republican vice presidential nominee, and few GOP big shots were disposed to consider any kind of variation on the Sarah Palin theme.
Neither, for that matter, was New Mexico ever a “battleground state” in this year’s presidential contest.
From the moment it became clear Mitt Romney would be the Republican standard bearer against the Democratic incumbent, President Obama, New Mexico was comfortably in the Obama column.
Even if Romney had made Martinez his running mate on the 2012 Republican ticket, it’s unlikely New Mexico would suddenly have become up-for grabs.
Romney didn’t carry either of his “home states” — Michigan, where he was born and raised, or Massachusetts, where he was a one-term governor. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who was Romney’s vice presidential running mate, was no help in even carrying his own hometown.
What reason is there to assume the GOP ticket would have fared any better in New Mexico with Gov. Martinez in the No. 2 spot?
A number of governors or former governors have become president in recent U.S. history, among them Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. None made it to the White House, however, because they wisely chose another governor from a “battleground” state as their running mate.
Which is not to suggest that Susana Martinez’s time won’t come. Only recently, Fox News, Republicans’ favorite news “source,” interviewed the governor about her interest in a 2016 presidential bid.
Hal Rhodes
NM News Service