Several months ago, the Trump campaign surprised many by saying that New Mexico was one of its “battleground states” and the chairman of the New Mexico GOP flat-out said President Trump would carry New Mexico. In some ways, this shouldn’t have been a shock: the 2016 election was even closer than it looked when Hillary Clinton won by just over 65,000 votes. Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor and Libertarian candidate captured 74,000 votes as well. Since 2016, New Mexico Republicans have chipped 5,000 votes off the Democrats’ registration edge in the state.
One likely reason the Trump camp thought it could swing New Mexico is Trump’s strong (and growing) approval rating among Hispanics, which in some polls is above 40%. Still, the gap between registered Democrats and Republicans is a daunting 194,000. For Trump to carry New Mexico, he’d have to win the majority of the Johnson voters, hold all the Republicans, and still flip a good 50,000 votes. It’s not an impossible task at all, but certainly, that registration lead is a challenge for the best of candidates, and in 2004 (the last time a Republican carried the state) George W. Bush did so by 6,000 votes.
Trump also was expecting to carry New Mexico’s neighbor Arizona, which he won in 2016 by just over 3% and 90,000 votes. Since 2016, however, Democrats have eaten into a GOP registration lead, at one time cutting a 150,000-registration edge to 85,000 before the Republicans padded it by another 10,000 to lead by almost 97,000 now. If nothing had changed between then and now, Trump would still win Arizona, although by a smaller margin.
Much of the talk regarding the Grand Canyon State involved the supposedly national shrinking Trump margin in the suburbs, where pollsters claim the Karen's have shifted to Joe Biden. Not only is this likely mythical, but in the Arizona primary election, the Republican Senate candidates Martha McSally and Daniel McCarthy combined to out-poll the uncontested Democrat, Mark Kelly, by more than 100,000. While Democrats would insist that was meaningless as Kelly had no opponent, it should give them pause as the margin was almost exactly that of the GOP registration advantage in the state. Moreover, surveying the numbers, Big Data pollster Richard Baris—who was the most accurate pollster of 2016—told me that the idea that Maricopa County was going blue was a fiction. Republicans had a 2-3-point lead in Maricopa County’s primary.
Trump pulled advertising in Arizona until early voting started there, but my sense is that Arizona will be as reliably in the GOP camp in November as ever, and likely Trump will have a slightly bigger margin here than in 2016 . . . again despite Hoax Polls. (This also may make the race between McSally and Kelly much closer than it was just three months ago).
Utah is in the bag for President Trump, although he typically does less well there than other Republicans. One of my LDS friends insists that “Mormons are a polite people,” and that Trump’s brashness rubs them the wrong way. But Utah won’t be close.
That leaves the biggest surprise, Nevada. Earlier this year, when the Trump people insisted New Mexico was in play, they were mum about Nevada. Suddenly, Nevada appears on their radar, with Trump making two stops there last weekend. Nevada Republicans have slashed 14,000 off the Democrats’ registration lead since January 2017. At the same time, Independents have grown by 48,000. This suggests that many of the “I’s” are Democrats grown disaffected with that party’s shenanigans and its increasingly radical positions. Nevada’s governor, Steve Sisolak, has become one of the most draconian of the nation’s statewide leaders in his lock-down of Nevada. He even refused any arena space for Trump to appear—so Trump simply relocated to airplane hangars for his giant rallies. Sisolak has kept bars closed, masks required and has virtually condemned the Las Vegas entertainment industry to a slow death.
In February, it was reported that Wynn Resorts were losing $2.6 million a day due to the shutdown. Even with the partial reopening of the casinos to “socially-distanced” gamblers, the other main attractions of Sin City—restaurants and shows—are badly crippled.
The situation for entertainers was getting “dire,” as thousands of performers in the big shows such as Cirque du Soliel are joined by everyone from crossbow marksmen to tour guides in searching for work. The state’s unemployment rate of 15% is the fourth highest in the nation and 47% of renter households are at risk of eviction. And on top of that, Las Vegas braced for the loss of Chinese tourism—another major source of income.
After a negative reaction of having its famous buffet reopen only with waiters bringing food to the tables, Wynn closed its buffet again, leaving only two operating buffets in the city. And, on top of all of that, Las Vegas started to see some of the Black Lives Matter/fascist so-called “antifa” rioting and vandalism that has plagued much of the rest of the country.
Trump can appeal to these traditionally Democratic elements. Sooner or later, even ideologues have to eat and Sisolak is proving entirely unsympathetic to the entertainment industry of Nevada. In short, while New Mexico remains the longest shot of the four states, there is an outside chance Trump can run the Southwest Table in November.
Larry Schweikart is the co-author with Michael Allen of the New York Times #1 bestseller, A Patriot’s History of the United States, author of Reagan: The American President, and founder of the Wild World of History, a grade 9-12 history curriculum website that features US and World History courses with teacher guides, student workbooks, tests/answer keys, maps/graphs, and videos accompanying every lesson (www.wildworldofhistory.com).