The Slatest

Why Trump Is Attacking a Popular, Hispanic, Female Republican Governor 

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on April 6 in Bethpage, New York.

Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

Speaking at a New Mexico rally on Tuesday night, Donald Trump took a few surprising-if-he-were-someone-else shots at the state’s Republican governor, Susana Martinez, who also just so happens to be the head of the party’s well-heeled and influential governor’s association. Via the Washington Post:

“We have got to get your governor to get going,” Trump said to a cheering audience. “She’s got to do a better job. Okay? Your governor has got to do a better job. She’s not doing the job. Hey! Maybe I’ll run for governor of New Mexico. I’ll get this place going. She’s not doing the job. We’ve got to get her moving. Come on: Let’s go, governor.”

Trump also criticized Martinez for allowing “large numbers” of Syrian refugees to resettle in the state. Although governors have limited control over these federal resettlements, Trump faulted Martinez for allowing it to happen. “If I was governor, that wouldn’t be happening,” Trump said.

Martinez is her state’s first female governor, the nation’s first Latina one, and generally thought of as a rising star within the Republican Party—aka not someone you would expect a presidential hopeful who is struggling to win over women, Latinos, and party power players alike to needlessly attack from the stump in her home state. Trump being the thin-skinned reality TV star that he is, though, this isn’t all that much of a shock.

To date, Martinez has been publicly coy about her support for Trump, dodging questions about him by telling reporters that she won’t be voting for Hillary Clinton in the general election. Privately, though, she’s been significantly more forceful with her critique of her party’s new standard-bearer, particularly when it comes to his implausible and inhumane wall-building plans for the Mexican border. Following the rally, the governor’s office responded with a statement saying she would “not be bullied into supporting a candidate.”

Trump is a bully, and his attack last night could have been an effort to force Martinez’s hand, or a warning to other party figures still on the fence. It could have been Trump trying to re-establish his anti-establishment bona fides now that the GOP is mainstreaming him, or simply him overreacting to a political slight, either because he couldn’t stop himself or because he didn’t want to. It could be all of those things, or none of them. But with Trump, the intent isn’t what matters as much as the outcome. And this latest outburst will once again make it clear that if the party is going to unite, it will have to come to him, not the other way around. A verbal assault on a popular party figure like Martinez probably makes that a more unappealing prospect for party holdouts, but it also gives them more incentive to move to Trump now, before they find themselves the subject of one of his quasi-impromptu stump speeches.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.