As I wrote on Monday, the GOP campaigns for the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey took entirely different approaches to courting the minority vote. Ken Cuccinelli was abandoned by major GOP donors in Virginia and was unable to fund the kind of outreach effort that Bob McDonnell used to beat the Democrats handily in 2009. Democrat Terry McAuliffe pounded Cuccinelli relentlessly on Spanish-language media over 2012 comments he made that many took to mean he was comparing immigrant families to “rat families,” allowing him to hold Cuccinelli to only 8 percent of the African-American vote and less than a third of the Hispanic vote.
New Jersey was a different story. Chris Christie engaged every minority community in the state relentlessly and even brought in New Mexico governor Susana Martinez on the closing day of the campaign to seal the deal. According to exit polls, Christie won 51 percent of the Hispanic vote, 21 percent of African-Americans and 53 percent of those labeled “other races,” i.e., Asian voters. Those are eye-opening numbers.
Many analysts will focus on factors such as Cuccinelli’s late surge on the back of Obamacare that almost carried him to victory, or how Christie was able to attract private-sector-union support that offset the money spent against him by public-sector unions. But if Republicans want to learn lessons for the future, they shouldn’t forget just how much their candidates in Virginia and New Jersey differed in terms of minority outreach.