By Gabriela Lopez
MONTERREY, Mexico (Reuters) - A maverick Mexican state governor on Wednesday tipped presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to win the upcoming U.S. election, likening his own shock victory last year to the billionaire's ascent.
An outspoken rancher known as "El Bronco" (the gruff one), Jaime Rodriguez became the first independent governor in modern Mexico, capitalizing on widespread disaffection with established parties to win Nuevo Leon state on the U.S. border.
"I made a bet ... I said that Trump's going to win," Rodriguez said the day after Trump's main rival for the Republican nomination, Ted Cruz, dropped out of the race. "What's Trump doing? He's taking advantage of the anger. The whole world says Trump is mad; that's what they said about me."
Speaking in Nuevo Leon's capital, Monterrey, Rodriguez said he was not a Trump fan, and would not vote for him if he had a ballot.
But, he added, he had met with a group of Mexican migrants in the last few days who also told him they thought Trump would win. They had faith in a Trump presidency as the real estate mogul is known as a job creator, Rodriguez said.
Once a member of Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, Rodriguez won a landslide election victory in one of the country's wealthiest states last June after breaking with the PRI and running an anti-establishment campaign.
The week after Rodriguez's victory, Trump launched his bid for the U.S. presidency, putting Mexico in his crosshairs and leaving the Mexican government struggling to come up with an effective strategy to counter his rhetoric.
Claiming Latin America's No. 2 economy is "killing" the United States on trade, Trump has threatened to disrupt bilateral commerce worth some $500 billion a year and punish companies that move operations offshore.
He has also promised to deport millions of undocumented migrants from Mexico and Central America, and force Mexico to pay for a wall on the border between the two countries.
Trump's path to becoming the Republican presidential nominee received a further boost on Wednesday when U.S. media reported his last remaining challenger, Ohio Governor John Kasich, was suspending his campaign.
Rodriguez is seen by political analysts as a potential candidate for the Mexican presidency in 2018.
(Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Dave Graham and Alan Crosby)