Want to understand why the Republican political establishment is in love with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as a 2016 candidate?
Check out this snippet from remarks he gave on Wednesday in Union City, New Jersey -- one day after he won a sweeping re-election victory in the Garden State:
I think the problem that politicians make is that they look at a specific ethnic community and they say, ‘Ok, let me see. What do I say to them to appeal particularly to them?’ And that’s not my approach. My approach is that I think that Latino parents want the same things that other parents want. That Latino folks who are looking for work want the same thing that African-American folks who are looking for work for. Caucasian folks who are looking for work want. The way to do this in my view is that you have to spend time. You have to sit and listen. You have to, you know, show up. As I was saying in the speech last night, one of the biggest problems that I think my Party has had is that they think if you show up six months before an election and ask somebody for a vote and act like you’re really interested that you fool people. You don’t. When you come just six months before an election people are going to be like, ‘Where have you been? And why should I trust you? This other guy over here he’s been here for years.’ Well, you want to make inroads into a community, you gotta get there. And work it. And look at what happened last night. Now, I didn’t have, you know, any kind of significant Latino support in 2009. We won the Latino vote last night. Now find another Republican in America who’s won the Latino vote recently. Why? It’s because of the relationships. You get in, you build relationships, you build trust, and then people are willing to give you a chance.
Christie is right about his massive improvement among Latino voters. In 2009 when he ousted Gov. Jon Corzine, he won 32 percent of the Latino vote. Four years later, he beat Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono 50 percent to 45 percent among Hispanic voters -- a remarkable improvement in a single term. That was the result of an aggressive effort by his campaign to reach out to those voters, knowing that a strong performance among such a critical voting bloc would send a very strong signal to national Republicans about his capacity to expand the GOP coalition going forward. (Worth noting: Buono was badly underfunded while Corzine was, um, not, which also likely contributed to Christie's gains in the Hispanic community.)
Looking back at the 2012 election, it's clear that expanding the Republican coalition is an absolute necessity if the party wants to win the White House. Check out this chart, which details the white vs non-white votes won by President Obama and Mitt Romney:
Just over one in ten people who voted for Romney were non-white. More than four in ten Obama voters were non-white. Combine that with the fact that whites as a percentage of the overall electoratehave declined in every election since 1992 and you begin to grasp the massive demographic problem that faces Republicans if they can't begin to be more competitive with Hispanic voters.
Now, Christie's showing in New Jersey in 2013 against an underfunded and unknown Democratic does not mean that if nominated he would immediately make Republicans competitive with Hispanics in 2016. But, Christie's words above -- and his performance among Latinos on Tuesday -- suggest that he gets it, that he knows that the party doesn't have any real future at the presidential level unless it can figure out how to win a larger share of Hispanic voters. That's music to a party establishment's ears who have long warned behind the scenes that continued failure in the Hispanic community ensures electoral doom.
Of course, the Republican establishment doesn't necessarily have the political power it once did -- particularly in the Iowa caucuses or the South Carolina primary. But, it remains a major force -- particularly in money circles -- and, at least at the moment, Christie is their guy.