Susana Martinez: What New Mexico’s governor can teach the GOP
Unless you happen to live near vast stretches of sand, sagebrush, and adobe, chances are you have no idea who Susana Martinez is. That’s a pity, because she may be the boldest, savviest vice-presidential pick Mitt Romney could make.
Consider Romney’s vulnerabilities. He trails Barack Obama by as many as 56 percentage points among Latinos. Women prefer the president by roughly 20 points. Conservatives still distrust him, and populists in both parties suspect that he likes to fire people. New Mexico’s Martinez, the first Latina governor in U.S. history, would help as much as any running mate conceivably could. Within minutes of meeting me in Santa Fe one morning last month, she is speaking Spanish, reminiscing about the .357 Magnum she acquired at age 18, and describing her family’s mom-and-pop security business back in El Paso, Texas.
Still, it isn’t until a few hours later, when we arrive at Albuquerque’s Mission Avenue Elementary School, that Martinez demonstrates precisely how potent a sidekick she could be. By now, everyone knows that Romney tends to act like a malfunctioning automaton around real people. Martinez, who has stopped by to read aloud If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, is different. A compact 52-year-old with a bronze bob, black jeans, and a cropped black motorcycle jacket, she gently restores order every time the kids stand, squirm, squeal, or inch into the circle for a better view of the titular mouse and his hilarious milk mustache. And when she spots one glum little girl sitting off to the side by herself, she makes a point of getting her involved.
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