One of the most encouraging aspects of the 2016 election is that a number of Republicans showed there’s more than one way to beat a Democrat. Indeed, in contested states, conservative senate candidates consistently out-polled Trump, taking very different approaches and piling up larger vote totals and sometimes-decisive margins.
In terms of his 714,000, 7.7 percentage-point margin in the general election, Rubio won more than 6 times that of Trump in Florida. The billionaire businessman beat the former secretary of state by about 114,000 votes, or 1.2 percentage points. Rubio garnered almost 52 percent of the vote in the U.S. Senate race, while Trump earned a little more than 49 percent in the presidential race.
In all, Rubio received almost 218,000 more votes than Trump.
How did he do it? In part by aggressively appealing to the Democrats’ Latino and African-American base:
For a modern-day Republican in a presidential election year, the bilingual Rubio won historic shares of support from Hispanics (48 percent) and African-Americans (17 percent), exit polls showed. He even carried a majority-black Jacksonville precinct.
And when you fight for black voters, black voters can indeed vote for a Republican
The campaign also had separate programs reaching out to voters of Cuban-American, Puerto Rican, Venezuelan and Colombian descent. It mined for votes in Miami’s Haitian American community and made inroads in traditionally African-American quarters of the electorate.
Rubio’s outspoken criticism of the “slumlord” company that runs the Eureka Gardens housing project in Jacksonville earned him such goodwill that he won the neighborhood precinct by 4 percentage points.
As Patrick Ruffini tweeted, “We win when we show up.”
This is the blueprint for the future – one that doesn’t rely on identity politics but instead on mobilizing citizens as Americans, not interest groups. The Democrats presume their future dominance by presuming their indefinite, overwhelming hold on Black and Latino votes. Rubio’s Florida win showed those presumptions can be wrong.