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State GOP leader says election won’t be a referendum on the pandemic

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce said Friday he does not think President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic will be a major factor in the November election, provided case levels remain on a downward trajectory.

Democrats have in recent weeks repeatedly criticized Trump’s handling of the virus outbreak that has now killed more than 180,000 people nationwide.

But Pearce said a recent decline in new cases – after a sharp increase in June – could cause voters’ focus to shift.

“The numbers are falling and, as they fall, people move on to other issues,” Pearce told the Journal.

Specifically, he predicted voters could be swayed by the economy and civil unrest that has flared up in response to high-profile cases involving police treatment of African Americans.

“Those things make people feel unsafe and they want someone who can handle it,” Pearce said.

With just over two months before the November general election, both Republicans and Democrats recently held their national conventions.

Pearce traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the Republican National Convention, and posted a picture on social media of himself with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

Neither was wearing a face covering in the picture – despite a North Carolina mask mandate for public places – but Pearce said he wears a mask in businesses that require it.

He was non-committal about whether he would self-quarantine for 14 days after returning to New Mexico, as required by a state health order, but said he abides by the law as a general rule.

While Trump delivered his speech accepting the GOP presidential nomination before a live audience at the White House, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden delivered his speech remotely.

And both Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., delivered prime-time addresses to the Democratic National Convention remotely from New Mexico.

State Democratic Party chairwoman Marg Elliston this week accused Trump of ignoring the pandemic and failing to develop an effective plan in response to it.

“Donald Trump’s leadership has left our economy, our health care system and our nation in chaos, and we cannot afford another four years of this destructive presidency,” Elliston said in a statement.

While Trump’s campaign has said it believes New Mexico could be in play this year, the state has voted for Democratic presidential candidates in each of the past three presidential election years: 2008, 2012 and 2016.

The last Republican candidate to win the state’s five electoral votes was George W. Bush in 2004.

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