When Chris Christie was re-elected governor of New Jersey last year, news reports mentioned that he received a majority of Hispanic votes, a fact considered noteworthy for a Republican in that state.

A couple of months ago, I happened to see a TV interview with Rick Perry, outgoing governor of Texas. Perry said he will be campaigning for the Republican candidate who is running to succeed him. And, he added gratuitously, he'll be campaigning for Susana Martinez in New Mexico.

The governor of Texas coming here to campaign? The governor who ran for president and couldn't remember which cabinet departments he wanted to eliminate? That's wild, I thought. My northern New Mexico bias surfaced momentarily as I speculated that this loudmouth Texan might be a nice gift to Gary King.

I apologize. Perry is probably popular in parts of New Mexico. And maybe he is planning to raise money for Martinez in Texas.

The question is, why does the governor of Texas care enough about Martinez to single her out in that way? Recent events may have made Martinez even more of a hot commodity for the Republican Party's future.

Eric Cantor, U. S. House Majority Leader, lost his seat in a primary election to a little-known Tea Party challenger. One of the issues that got him defeated, the pundits tell us, was his willingness to work on a bipartisan compromise on immigration. His defeat now has fellow Republicans running from any discussion of the immigration issue. Nothing will be done this year, and that will be attributable to Republicans in Congress.

Immigration reform, we are told, is a major issue for Hispanic voters around the country. The number of Hispanic voters and their influence as a voting bloc are growing (in 2012, Hispanic voters were estimated to be 23.7 million, or about 11 percent of the electorate). Though Hispanics are a large and diverse group of people and not single-issue voters, it's recognized that this issue could have a powerful influence on their vote.

If immigration reform is dead and it's the Republicans' fault, so the reasoning goes, the Republicans have lost the Hispanic vote and therefore already lost the White House in 2016. Moans and groans have been heard from the national punditry.

Unless they can find another compelling way to win back Hispanic voters.

Such as Susana Martinez.

Martinez has been the Great Hispanic Hope for the Republicans ever since her appearance at the 2012 national convention. I speculate that with this recent turn of events, her stock has risen considerably in value.

We're not going to hear public pronouncements to this effect, but I suspect we will see it in even more out-of-state donations to her re-election campaign, and perhaps more visits from politicians lining up favors to trade. We've already had Christie and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.

If this analysis is correct, Martinez is in the catbird seat. And let us suggest with no subtlety whatsoever that she can use her position for not only her own, but also New Mexico's advantage. Maybe the governor can do a little discreet arm-twisting in Congress for a few things New Mexico needs: funding stability for the national labs and military bases, a little help with roads and infrastructure, a lot of help with long-term solutions on water.

We don't know what 2016 will bring Martinez, but we certainly know what the Republicans nationally want between now and then. As long as our governor is benefitting, the state should, too. No matter where her campaign contributions are coming from, New Mexico is still paying her salary.

 

Merilee Dannemann is an independent public policy professional in Albuquerque. Contact Merilee Dannemann through www.triplespacedagain.com.