November 6, 2013
Gov. Chris Christie celebrates his reelection. (Mel Evans/Associated Press)
Gov. Chris Christie celebrates his reelection. (Mel Evans/Associated Press)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s resounding reelection yesterday is awakening GOP to something that polls have been making clear since last Election Day. African Americans and Latinos will vote for Republicans if those candidates give them a reason to do so.

“He’s proved that a conservative Republican can get votes from Hispanics and African-Americans, that a pro-life governor can get votes from women,” said former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie to the New York Times. “This means that those voters are available to us, that we’re not shut out demographically or geographically — that it’s worth the effort.” Of course, it is.

As I have pointed out more than once after President Obama’s reelection, the Republican Party is leaving votes on the table. And the GOP is doing so by believing a myth fueled by an inexorable trend. The myth is that the browning of America via demographic changes is an automatic boon to the Democratic Party. Not so.

An ImpreMedia/Latino Decisions 2012 Latino Election Eve Poll survey of Hispanic voters in 11 states showed that 31 percent would have been more likely to have voted for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney if the party took a lead role in pursuing comprehensive immigration reform. African American voters in Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Virginia were surveyed in a battleground poll by the NAACP on the eve of the 2012 presidential election. They were asked if they would be more likely to vote Republican if the “GOP took a stand for civil rights/equality.” The four-state total was 14 percent. In Florida, the percentage went up to 15 percent.

Romney won 27 percent of the Latino vote and just 6 percent of the black vote. Christie cruised to reelection with the support of 51 percent of Hispanics and 21 of African Americans. That is a 19-point and 12-point increase, respectively, over the Garden State governor’s 2009 showing. Whether Christie can bring his statewide success to the national stage as a presidential candidate is a big question Perry Bacon at The Grio explored yesterday in a worthwhile read.

Still, Christie’s victory speech last night had a message his party ignores at its own peril. “We don’t just show up in the places where we’re comfortable, we show up in the places we’re uncomfortable,” he said. “You don’t just show up 6 months before an election.” The Times highlighted the governor’s wooing of a black Democrat and Obama 2012 convention delegate to bolster Christie’s contention.

For example, he won over Michael Blunt, a black Democrat and mayor of Chesilhurst, a largely black borough in South Jersey, with relentless wooing. Mr. Blunt, who recalled how Mr. Christie held a town hall in his community, steered more municipal aid to it and invited him to a Juneteenth celebration, marking the end of slavery, at the State House, impressing him with his knowledge of the holiday. And the governor invited black elected officials to Drumthwacket, the governor’s mansion near Princeton, and told them how a black friend in college took him to a historically black campus to demonstrate how it felt to be in the minority.

“If a person has no problem going in enemy territory to explain his policies, that person we really need to look at,” Blunt told the Times. Once again proving that if Republicans want African American and Latino votes, they have to go after them. A candidate doesn’t have to pander them. But he or she does have to give them the respect of trying to earn their vote.

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Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.