Candidates for Congress and the state Legislature aren’t the only ones in New Mexico who have shifted to virtual campaign work during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is holding videoconference trainings to encourage New Mexicans to register to vote and support the president in the November election.
On a virtual training call for New Mexicans on Thursday night, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told supporters the Trump reelection efforts represent the “largest Republican footprint in New Mexico’s history” and “the first time since 2004 that the RNC has had a significant presence in your state.”
“We can win if we work together, if we’re united, if we remember that we’re against Democrats, and that we need to elect Republicans,” McDaniel said. “If we look at Nancy Pelosi every day — put a picture of her on your fridge, with her ice cream — this is how we’re going to win and we can do this in New Mexico.”
McDaniel was referring to Pelosi’s recent appearance on a late-night TV show in which she displayed a stockpile of gourmet ice cream. The Trump campaign later released an advertisement on the web called “Let them eat ice cream,” likening Pelosi to 18th-century French Queen Marie Antoinette.
Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee made up of the Trump campaign and the RNC, has held 100 virtual trainings in New Mexico and contacted 63,000 voters through phone calls since its operations turned virtual amid the coronavirus health crisis, McDaniel said.
Since last year, Trump has vowed to win New Mexico’s five electoral votes in the presidential election in November. He repeated the comment during a campaign rally in September in Rio Rancho.
But no Republican presidential candidate has won the state since George W. Bush’s reelection 16 years ago.
On Friday, the campaign for Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, pushed back on the notion that Trump could win the state.
“New Mexicans already rejected President Trump and his divisive and irresponsible policies once and they’ll do it again in November,” a Biden campaign spokesman said. “Look no further than Trump’s serious mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected thousands of New Mexico families for why they are craving new leadership in the White House.”
The Biden campaign also pointed out that practically every major Democratic elected official in New Mexico has endorsed Biden, including both U.S. senators, two members of Congress and state House Speaker Brian Egolf.
On Friday, 40 more political leaders in the state announced they were endorsing the former vice president, including Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and dozens of Democratic state legislators, according to a campaign statement.
The Biden campaign is also holding virtual meetings in New Mexico during the coronavirus pandemic. On Saturday, it planned to host two “Soul of the Nation” events, one geared toward Albuquerque residents and the other for Santa Feans, to discuss community support during the health crisis and how people can “can get involved with the campaign moving forward.”
The state Democratic Party said it has adapted its operations in light of the pandemic as well. It has organized “phone bank” efforts to encourage Democrats to vote in the June primary. The party also put up a “Campaigning During COVID-19” website through which candidates have hosted events and the party has held trainings.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented challenge for campaigns everywhere, but it hasn’t changed the fact that New Mexicans are fired up about putting a Democrat in the White House in 2020,” Democratic Party Chairwoman Marg Elliston said Friday. The party “is tackling these challenges head on with smart solutions that allow us to stay in touch with voters and continue to build on that enthusiasm.”
On the Trump campaign training call, McDaniel drew a comparison between the campaign’s 2020 efforts in New Mexico and Trump’s 2016 bid in Michigan, where he unexpectedly won. She said the Trump campaign could do the same in New Mexico this year if people follow through on get-out-the-vote efforts.
“Everybody thought that we were a state that couldn’t be won, probably like people say to you in New Mexico,” said McDaniel, who previously was chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party. “I know that every volunteer and every person that made that difference, that made that call, that talked to their neighbor — they made a difference in us winning that state and electing President Trump.”
Mari Spinelli, an Albuquerque volunteer who was on the Trump training call Thursday, said she has made over 1,000 calls to potential voters in New Mexico as a “voter registration agent.”
Spinelli, who used to be a registered Democrat, said she switched party lines after supporting Trump in 2016 and got involved with the 2020 campaign after the president’s Rio Rancho rally last year.
“It aligns a lot more with my values, and a lot more with who I am and what I think the direction New Mexico and the country should be going in,” she said.
Steve Sunderlin, an engineer from Taos who is also a Trump campaign volunteer, said he talks to residents about the COVID-19 crisis on his calls and makes sure they’re registered to vote.
“There’s a lot of energy,” said Sunderlin, 51. “People want to get back to where we were before the crisis.”
Trump campaign training was aimed at getting supporters ready for a “National Weekend of Action” starting Friday, in which they planned to make calls to New Mexicans and encourage them to register to vote.
On the Trump call Thursday, organizers gave a presentation saying voter registration would be a key to success in the state for Trump and other Republican candidates.
One slide noted Trump lost New Mexico by 65,567 votes in 2016, an average of 1,987 votes per county, and that Republican Yvette Herrell lost the 2nd Congressional District race in 2018 by only 3,722 votes, or an average of 196 votes per county.
“Increasing GOP voter registration helps us win more elections,” the slide said.
The presentation also noted voter registration was a key part of former President Barack Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012.
“The campaign assembled a nationwide program that greatly expanded the electorate by focusing on registering new voters as well as former voters who had been discouraged by the political process,” one slide read.
McDaniel said New Mexico is “important” to Trump’s reelection bid and “heavily” in play for this year’s presidential election.
“I cannot thank you enough for what you’re doing,” she told supporters on the call.