Friday, January 02, 2015

Can Martinez Hold Her Popularity As Second Term Launches?  

Coming amid continued economic doldrums and in the wake of one of the lowest-ever turnouts for a state gubernatorial election, the New Year's Day swearing in of Governor Martinez for her second term had the feel of the ordinary.

(Video of Martinez inaugural speech is here. Transcript here.)

The extraordinary symbolism that dominated her first inauguration--that of being the nation's first Hispanic female governor--was distant. Her challenge now is to hold on to her popularity for four long years while continuing to preside over government with a minimalist philosophy that shows early signs of wearing thin with a turned-off and turned away public.

While Martinez delivered her 18 minute speech at the state House chambers, social media comments sprouted on the news sites. Interestingly, they were nearly all negative. This one caught the overall tone:

Martinez is refreshing the second time around--as refreshing as stepping on a nail again. 

Martinez did not fall prey to that cynicism and anti-political mood in November as her Democratic opposition at the Capitol and on the campaign trail was absolutely hapless, practically giving away the reins of government. They never seriously contested the race and droves of voters stayed home.

With an open gubernatorial seat for 2018 that could change. Or maybe not. If Democrats continue to shy away from spelling out clear differences between themselves and the GOP, Lt. Governor John Sanchez is more than ready to fill the role of heir apparent.

Both of Martinez's predecessors--Republican Gary Johnson and Democrat Bill Richardson--were tripped up in their second terms when they put New Mexico behind them and sought national political careers. Both failed. That danger now lurks for Martinez who can be expected to hit the road after the 60 day legislative session to drum up support for herself for the vice-presidential slot on the 2016 Republican ticket.  She appears to have as much chance of success as the governors who tried before her. That won't stop her and it will likely come to be resented as it was for them.

Any loss of popularity for Martinez is a direct threat to John Sanchez, but there is a but.

While Martinez being the vice-presidential pick is probably a pipe dream, the possibility of a cabinet seat in a national GOP administration doesn't seem out of the question. Remember how Bill was about to become Commerce Secretary under Obama and Lt, Governor Denish was primed to assume the Governor's chair and a big lead for the 2010 governor's race? That fell apart when Richardson had to reject the cabinet post in the face of a federal grand jury corruption probe.

Or maybe Sanchez will start whispering in Susana's ear to pull a Sarah Palin. The Alaska Governor actually resigned at the middle of her term and turned her job over to her lieutenant governor. She then pursued a national role and made a tall stack of dollars in the process.

Feel free to send that final paragraph to Susana, John.

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