Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) gets applause from the mainstream media (who love his Obama-ish foreign policy and anti-police rhetoric during recent racial incidents) for speaking to college kids, African American students and Hispanics. But he has no record of getting these groups to vote for him. In 2010 he got 13 percent of the African American vote, as we have previously noted.
Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) got 20 percent of the African American vote and 55 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2010 Senate race.
And in his last election Texas Gov. Rick Perry won 38 percent of the Hispanic vote.
It is noteworthy that, as impressive as some of these figures are, these elections did not take place in a presidential year, when the minority turnout is highest. Whether any of these candidates can hold his own against Hillary Clinton in a presidential contest remains in doubt. But it would seem if the candidates are going to claim the ability to expand the base then some record of having done so would be in order.
That claim may also rest on age and party ID. Last November, for example, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker got only 10 percent of the African American vote but he virtually broke even in voters age 18 to 24, won independents, non-college graduates and those making between $30,000 and $50,000.
For a candidate to do well with those not already in the GOP camp, it is not enough to devise a token outreach campaign. You need (literally, in some cases) to speak their language, offer something other than abstractions and anti-government rhetoric and show how what you are offering delivers results for these voters. You cannot offend these voters from the get-go with your tone or rhetoric, or they won’t wait around to hear the rest of the pitch.
If the GOP wants to expand its share of the electorate, a good place to start is with someone who has a track record and a logical rationale for why women, minorities, young people, working-class people and others who usually don’t favor the GOP should look at them differently. It would be someone who in style and rhetoric conveys interest in their day-to-day concerns and empathy for their challenges. The GOP does not need to win these groups, just do a lot better than it did in the last two cycles and on a par with President George W. Bush — who in 2004 pulled in 48 percent of the female vote, 44 percent of Hispanics, 44 percent of Asian voters and virtually tied in the $30,000-50,000 segment and won every income group above that.
The good news for the GOP is that many of the 2016 hopefuls can measure up in that regard. Now they have to get those people to vote for them even when presented with a Democratic alternative and to add to — not substitute for — traditional GOP voters.