(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump vowed that he’ll win New Mexico in his 2020 re-election campaign, boasting at a campaign rally near Albuquerque on Monday that his policies had led to a boom for the state’s energy industry and generated a budget surplus.
“We will win the great state of New Mexico in 2020,” Trump declared.
The state produced about 246 million barrels of oil in 2018, according to the Albuquerque Journal. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, signed a $7 billion budget earlier this year, according to the paper -- the state’s largest ever, including about $1.4 billion that was directed to reserves.
“Revenues from energy production provide up to 25% of your state’s budget, generated a billion-dollar budget surplus in New Mexico,” Trump said. “Thank you very much, President Trump, thank you.”
But some Republicans concede Trump is unlikely to win the state. New Mexico has voted Republican only once in the last seven presidential elections -- in 2004 -- and the victor receives a mere five electoral college votes. That’s prompted questions about whether Trump’s visit, which must be paid for at least partly by his campaign, will take resources from swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania that the president will likely need in his column to win a second term.
“I think New Mexico is going to be a stretch for him under the best of circumstances,” said Colin Reed, a Republican strategist who called New Mexico a blue state that has “gotten bluer.”
“There are other states that I think will be more competitive come the general election,” he added.
Making matters more difficult for Trump, roughly half of the people who live in New Mexico are Latino, a population that tends to vote Democratic. His crackdown on immigration -- and on immigrants already living in the U.S. -- may make him an even harder sell.
Several people wearing shirts that read “Latinos for Trump” were positioned in risers directly behind him at his rally. His campaign recently debuted a Latino outreach program with the slogan “Vamos to Victory.”
“We’ve got a lot of Hispanics,” Trump said. “We love our Hispanics. Get out and vote.’’
After speaking in the Albuquerque suburb of Rio Rancho, Trump will continue to California for two days of campaign fundraising. When Trump campaigned in Albuquerque in 2016, an event was marred by violence between his supporters and opponents.
Loss in 2016
The president lost the state by more than eight percentage points in his first election, and it’s unlikely to play a decisive role next year. Democrats are also favored to retain the state’s U.S. Senate seat, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, with Representative Ben Ray Luján seeking to replace retiring Senator Tom Udall.
Even so, the visit underscores the Trump campaign’s ambitions to prevail in traditionally Democratic territory. The president tweeted Monday: “Big crowd expected in New Mexico tonight, where we will WIN.”
Republicans who cast doubt on his ability to carry New Mexico also said there’s no harm in a visit at this early stage of the campaign.
If he persists in trying to win the state, Trump could force Democrats to dedicate resources to a state they believe they have in their column, Reed said. Trump could even gain ground for the GOP if he attacks Democrats over the Green New Deal, he said. New Mexico is debating new restrictions on methane emissions Grisham has proposed as part of a plan to confront climate change.
“Under the Green New Deal that all goes away,” Trump said of the state’s oil industry. “The Democrats want to completely annihilate New Mexico’s economy.”
‘Vamos to Victory’
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale and senior adviser Katrina Pierson plan to hold a “Vamos to Victory” roundtable event in Albuquerque on Tuesday, part of what the campaign has billed as a monthlong series of events celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. More than 49% of the state’s residents identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino, according to U.S. Census data.
Bolstering the president’s standing among those voters may be a necessity for 2020. Two in three Latinos voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to exit poll data, and Hispanic voters are expected to be the largest minority voter group -- outpacing blacks for the first time in American history -- in the upcoming elections, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.
Campaign officials say that the decision to target New Mexico and Hispanic voters was born out of internal data showing positive trends they believe Trump can capitalize on. They said his economic record, energy policies and hard-line stance on immigration has made him more popular with Latinos than public polling data would indicate.
“The Trump campaign fully expects the president to win again where he won in 2016 and add new states to his column,” said Erin Perrine, a campaign spokeswoman. “That means he will compete in states like New Mexico and have the luxury of the financial resources to do so.”
The campaign disputed the notion that the New Mexico rally might hurt efforts in other more competitive states. Instead, campaign officials said it presented an opportunity to leverage an early financial advantage over Democrats.
A sizable number of attendees at the president’s rally in El Paso, Texas, earlier this year traveled to the event from neighboring New Mexico, according to the official who requested anonymity to discuss internal data.
‘Testing the Water’
“This is the perfect time to be testing the water in states like New Mexico to see if they might end up being competitive come 2020,” said Andy Surabian, a Republican consultant and former Trump White House official. “It’s not like we’re a week away from the election. We’re more than a year out, and so there’s no harm at all in looking for ways to potentially expand the map.”
In addition to the president’s events in the state, campaign officials have been testing how to pitch voters there on the president’s policies.
Trump’s critics in New Mexico were also looking to seize on the visit, with protesters planning demonstrations and Democratic lawmakers, including Luján, planning their own rally.
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