RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — President Donald Trump made a pocketbook appeal for reelection in the Democratic-leaning state of New Mexico on Monday, telling voters that his energy policies have made the state wealthier and warning that the gains could disappear if the proposal known as the Green New Deal takes effect.
“The Democrats want to completely annihilate New Mexico’s economy,” claimed Trump, who boasted that an oil and gas boom during his administration has helped increase the state’s revenues. “The Democrats will never get the chance because New Mexico will never give them that chance.”
Trump went to New Mexico, which has not backed a Republican for president since 2004, to try to turn the state red and expand his grip on the Electoral College in next year’s presidential election.
“It’s been quite a while since a Republican won this state,” Trump told supporters, who greeted him with chants of “USA, USA.” ”I think we’re going to do great here. We’re here because we really think we’re going to turn this state and make it a Republican state.”
Trump’s rally in Rio Rancho, in suburban Albuquerque, is the first stop on a three-day swing that will also take him to California for fundraisers expected to raise more than $15 million.
Trump has generally held his rallies in Republican-friendly terrain. Monday’s rally represents a striking departure from that practice and demonstrates a campaign with the resources to try to turn a few Democratic-leaning states his way, similar to what happened in 2016 with Michigan and Wisconsin.
Trump captured just 40% of the state vote in 2016, as compared to the 48% that went for Hillary Clinton. She did not visit the state during the 2016 campaign.
Still, campaign officials say a Trump rally in nearby El Paso, Texas, last February was well attended by female and Hispanic voters and travelers from New Mexico, indicating to them that New Mexico is in play. Hundreds of people showed up early Monday to claim a place in line ahead of the evening event in Rio Rancho.
Dianna Arvizu, an El Paso, Texas-native who now lives in Albuquerque, was among those in the crowd. She said Trump has a strong chance at capturing New Mexico.
She called his visit “big,” saying “He’s coming for us in New Mexico because he cares.”
Near downtown Albuquerque, a few hundred Democrats gathered to hold their own rally. Some elected leaders, including U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, spoke.
She described the president as misogynistic and ego-driven, saying Democrats will fight to make sure New Mexico stays blue. “We can roll back Trump, and we can roll back his policies, and we can win New Mexico in 2020,” Haaland said.
Trump’s efforts in New Mexico will provide a test of how well his often-harsh rhetoric about immigrants will play with Hispanic voters, who comprise nearly 40% of New Mexico’s electorate. Trump also touted his efforts to build the U.S.-Mexico border wall, saying Monday that his administration plans to have almost 500 miles (800 kilometers) of it built by the end of 2020.
“You’re gonna have to really want to get over that wall to do it,” Trump bragged.
New Mexico is in the midst of an oil production boom that has boosted employment and spurred a state government spending spree from first-year Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on public education, roadway projects and tax rebates for film productions.
The Green New Deal calls for virtual elimination by 2030 of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming and meeting 100% of U.S. power demand through renewable and zero-emission energy sources, including nuclear power. The proposal has broad support among Democratic activists and 2020 presidential contenders, putting it at the forefront of the party’s sprawling presidential primary.
Lujan Grisham took aim at Trump ahead of his visit, describing the president as being demeaning to Hispanics and immigrants since being elected. She also said Trump’s policies had resulted in increased taxes for some New Mexicans.
Trump will follow up his rally by flying to the San Francisco Bay area on Tuesday for a luncheon fundraiser. He’ll then attend a fundraising dinner that evening in Beverly Hills at the home of real estate developer Geoffrey Palmer. He has two more fundraisers planned in Los Angeles and San Diego on Wednesday.
The fundraisers will benefit Trump Victory, the joint entity that funds Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee.
Associated Press writers Russell Contreras, Susan Montoya Bryan and Morgan Lee contributed to this report from New Mexico.