OPINION

Susana Martinez looms as GOP’s savior in 2016

Dennis Lennox

Conventional wisdom has former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the son and brother of presidents, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie benefiting the most from Michigan native Mitt Romney’s decision not to seek the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

While all three share some of the same political base, it isn’t a given that Romney loyalists, including those here in Michigan, will now swear allegiance to Bush or Christie.

This is even more the case given Romney’s comments at the end of his conference call announcement, which sent shockwaves through the field of 12-plus Republican presidential hopefuls.

“I believe that one of next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee,” the former Massachusetts governor said. “In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.”

Just whom Romney had in mind is unknown, though a betting man would be wise to place money on Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico.

She is arguably the GOP’s best-kept secret — especially considering Obama’s heir presumptive is Hillary Clinton, the erstwhile secretary of state, senator and first lady.

With Clinton as the Democratic nominee it would be ludicrous to think women wouldn’t come out in record numbers to shatter the proverbial glass ceiling, just as black Americans did to elect and re-elect the first black president.

The only way Republicans can neutralize this advantage is by running a woman. Not just any woman, but the best woman.

Martinez grew up in a different America than Clinton, who like Romney, was born in the shadow of World War II. Martinez was in high school when the Clintons’ political career was underway in Arkansas.

More importantly, Martinez, a Hispanic fluent in Spanish, is a proven vote-getter — she won a second term last year with 57.2 percent of the vote — in a purple state that went twice for President Barack Obama.

Martinez’s seeming lack of interest in the presidency may be somewhat puzzling, but it isn’t terribly surprising given how removed New Mexico is from the chattering class in Washington and New York.

Still, a lack of interest hasn’t stopped Republican grandees from thrusting other would-be candidates into running. Just look back to 2012, when press baron Rupert Murdoch and others relentlessly pushed Christie to run.

Martinez has what the GOP so desperately needs — Republican control of Congress only perpetuates the right’s denial of America at the halfway point in the second decade of the 21st century — as the party searches for a national governing majority.

Republicans who care about winning in the future, and not just when they might get lucky after two terms of a Democratic president, should be looking to the Land of Enchantment and doing whatever it takes for Martinez to run.

Dennis Lennox is a columnist for Mount Pleasant’s Morning Sun.

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