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New Mexico Republican leader sees quiet support for Trump

August 24, 2020 GMT
Republican Party of New Mexico chairman Steve Pearce, left, stands alongside GOP candidates for the state House and Senate on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, at a press conference in Albuquerque, N.M. Republicans introduced Wednesday a diverse slate of candidates they hope will flip the Democratic-controlled New Mexico House amid rural angry over a new red-flag gun law and uncertainty over oil prices. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)
Republican Party of New Mexico chairman Steve Pearce, left, stands alongside GOP candidates for the state House and Senate on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, at a press conference in Albuquerque, N.M. Republicans introduced Wednesday a diverse slate of candidates they hope will flip the Democratic-controlled New Mexico House amid rural angry over a new red-flag gun law and uncertainty over oil prices. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A half-dozen delegates from New Mexico are attending the Republican National Convention with hopes that President Donald Trump can reverse a progressive political shift at home.

From the convention, Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce said he believes Trump is well-positioned to assemble a silent majority in New Mexico by winning over people who voted in 2016 for Libertarian former state Gov. Gary Johnson.

Trump lost the vote in New Mexico by 8 percentage points to Hillary Clinton, who fell short of winning a majority in the state in part because of ballots cast for Johnson. He collected just over 9% of votes in New Mexico.

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“A lot of people are unsettled at telling anybody how they feel, especially if they’re supporting Trump,” Pearce said Sunday from Charlotte, North Carolina, “I think he will carry the state pretty deeply red.”

New Mexico’s high-desert scenery and cultural diversity was on prominent display at last week’s Democratic convention during brief video appearances by Latina Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and two prominent Native American elected officials — U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland of Albuquerque and state Rep. Derrick Lente of Sandia Pueblo.

In 2018, Democrats in New Mexico flipped a congressional swing district and the governor’s office from Republican control.

Pearce is among a select few delegates to attend the scaled-down GOP convention. National committee members Harvey Yates and Rosie Tripp also are attending.

Trump on Monday cast doubt on the integrity of the November election in a surprise opening day appearance

“The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election,” Trump said as he made an unscheduled appearance. The convention kicked off with a day of official business in Charlotte before moving to Washington for prime-time programming.

Pearce expects the convention to highlight Trump’s approach to civil liberties involving gun rights and free-speech issues, along with an aggressive approach to immigration and law enforcement.

“You’ve got two vastly different visions for the country,” Pearce said. “We want to defend the police. We want stability. ... Open border (policies) for the Democrats, and anything goes, anybody comes. And Republicans saying, wait, we’ll have orderly immigration and we’ll take care of Americans’ need for jobs first.”