On Monday, Save Jerseyans, the Republican National Committee (RNC) announced that it is deploying “Hispanic engagement staff” in seven U.S. states: California, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.
The RNC said by way of a press release that it plans to duplicate these efforts in 11 other states by the end of 2013, although the initial list is pretty interesting in of itself. “Ambitious” is another word that comes to mind.
Each of the first seven states voted Republican in 1988 for George H.W. Bush. Four of them voted for his son Dubya in 2004, and the other three states were lost by single-digit margins. 2008 and 2012 were a very different story; both McCain and Romney dropped six of the seven states in their respective cycles. Only Texas stayed Republican “red” but demographic shifts have given Democrats reason to think it’s only a matter of time before the Lonestar State tips their way.
America’s growing Hispanic vote is clearly the “x” factor. Bush Sr. only won somewhere between 30 and 33% of the Hispanic/Latino vote in 1988 but that bloc represented only 7% of the electorate back then, or approximately 3.7 million voters. Hispanic participation continues to increase but George W. Bush was able to keep pace by capturing 41% of the Hispanic nationwide vote.
It’s been all downhill since. Mitt Romney won just 27% of the 2012 Hispanic vote, down from John McCain’s marginally better 31% showing four years earlier. The problem further crystallizes when you consider how Mitt Romney won a larger percentage of the non-Hispanic white vote than Ronald Reagan in 1980 and still lost by a decisive margin.
Understandably, the RNC sees potential in what Chris Christie is doing in New Jersey’s upcoming gubernatorial contest. One August poll showed Christie winning 41% of the Garden State’s Hispanic/Latino vote representing a virtual tie with his Democrat opponent. The Republican incumbent is running Spanish-language ads, sure, but he’s also put significant amounts of time over the past four years into building urban alliances and courting Hispanic organizations. And to be fair, while the Governor catches plenty of criticism these days for alleged “RINO” tendencies he recently vocally opposed the DREAM Act while campaigning in heavily Dominican Jersey City alongside Democrat chieftain Brian Stack.
It’s proof positive that personality, tactics, presentation and coalition-building matter as much as (or more than) policy in politics.
Can Christie’s anticipated feat be replicated?
National GOP leaders sure hope so. They’re going to try to piggy-back on Christie’s successes by sending coordinators to events, groups and civic hot spots in New Jersey.
Calling the RNC’s move “unprecedented,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus expressed his belief that “[t]his off-cycle effort will ensure our message of ‘opportunity for all’ reaches voters. We are building a ground game that will allow us to compete for every voter and will outlast any one cycle or campaign. I’m certain with these early and unprecedented investments we can achieve Republican victories up and down the ballot now and for years to come.”
From his mouth to God’s ear…