The dominant performance of Democratic Rep.-elect Melanie Stansbury in last week’s special election for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District held some potential midterm strategies for Democrats, but many Republicans are also airing their takeaways, and they basically boil down to one axiom: Trumpism doomed us.

Politico has a totally enjoyable exploration of what went wrong for Republicans after their candidate, state Sen. Mark Moores, lost by a whopping 25 points—a bigger rout than really anyone imagined. As the article noted, when Donald Trump was elected to office in 2016, Republicans were still competitive in the state. GOP Gov. Susana Martinez had recently won reelection, Republicans had gained control of the state House, and Republican Richard Berry was also serving out his second term as Albuquerque’s mayor. Today, Democrats control the governorship and both state legislative chambers by wide margins, along with Albuquerque’s mayoral seat. 

Many New Mexico Republicans attribute the state party’s declining fortunes to Trump, and the margin by which Moores lost last week’s special election is yet another sign of how far the party has fallen since Trump became the GOP’s standard-bearer.

“Nobody’s surprised that Melanie won,” Darren White, a former sheriff of Albuquerque-centered Bernalillo County and the 2008 GOP nominee for the district, told Politico. “I think everybody was somewhat shocked at the margin,” he added.

Overall, turnout was higher than in any of the four other special House elections held this year. But Rod Adair, a GOP consultant who represented a southeast New Mexico state senate seat from 1997 to 2013, marveled that Republicans didn’t get more of a boost from Democrats’ unified control of Washington. 

“The striking thing about the results is that you would expect, in a special election, for the party opposite the White House to get a little bit of a bump,” Adair said. “It was actually worse.”

In fact, Stansbury didn’t just win the race, she also won Moores’ Albuquerque state senate district by several points. 

According to these Republicans, Moores’ biggest problem wasn’t necessarily his focus on crime and law and order, which didn’t get much traction with voters. Rather, he was caught in a Trump pickle. He couldn’t afford to totally disavow the Big Lie that the election was stolen or heavily criticize the Jan. 6 insurrection, for example, even though every reality-based voter in the district knew that both were driven by delusional right-wing thinking fomented by Trump.  

During a debate in May, for instance, Moores refused to hold Trump responsible for the Jan. 6 insurrection. “I think everyone deserves, including us, fault for that riot,” he said, noting that he meant “us as a nation.” He did, however, concede that Joe Biden won the election during the debate.

But the state party is now run by Steve Pearce, a Trumper and former Tea Party activist who lost his 2018 gubernatorial bid to Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham by 14 points. Politico writes:

Following Trump’s loss in November, the state party under Pearce fully embraced the narrative of a stolen election—seeking to impound ballots in Bernalillo County; working with the Trump campaign on a lawsuit against the New Mexico secretary of state that sought to invalidate the results of the election; promoting a meeting of unofficial, Republican-appointed electors at the state capitol on December 14; and supporting the Texas election lawsuit before the Supreme Court.

All these efforts surely thrilled Trump’s base, but at the near-total expense of the state GOP retaining any crossover appeal. 

“I think a lot of us—that aren’t saying the election was rigged and that Covid is like the flu, and all the other things that Trump stirred up—are so tired of the Trump message,” said Mark Veteto, a major GOP donor and president of Me-Tex Oil and Gas. “The party’s being ripped down the middle, and I think I’m gonna blame Trump for that,” Veteto added.

Following the GOP’s shellacking last week, the party issued an email statement attributing the loss to depressed Republican turnout due to disillusionment over the 2020 election results. “Republican voters were angry from 2020—many questioned election integrity—and stayed home,” said the statement.

Looks like Republicans repeatedly telling their voters that elections are rigged and 2020 was stolen isn’t a great motivator for the base, not to mention a nonstarter with many swing voters. The notion that Trumpism alienated swing voters along with depressing GOP turnout is also a best case scenario for Democrats next year. 

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