WASHINGTON, November 5, 2013 — Tuesday’s election results will be important for the future of the Republican Party. New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie is dominating in his re-election bid, and by all accounts is prepared to defeat Democratic opponent Sen. Barbara Buono by a wider margin than expected. Chris Christie is widely considered a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. He’s the only candidate, like him or not, who has the ability to win support among leaning independents and conservative Democrats, which is a major part of Christie’s appeal.
Fast forward to the State of Virginia where we see a different situation. It appears that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, will soon defeat Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, who is strongly favored by Virginia’s Tea Party groups. Virginians recognize the former State Attorney General as a reformer who challenged constitutional amendments against the Affordable Care Act and was an active voice against other Obama based programs. Nevertheless, the polls are suggesting that “Virginians” are more in support McAuliffe, which could be devastating for the GOP in 2016.
So what separates Chris Christie from Ken Cuccinelli? Christie has clearly made a name for himself while taking on New Jersey’s most powerful teachers unions. Cuccineli has become opposed to anything the President proposes. However, unlike Cuccineli, Christie has framed himself as a centrist who stands above the politics as usual, doing the things most Republicans don’t do, like campaign in urban districts.
The biggest difference between Christie and Cuccinelli is how both Republicans are viewed amongst the African-American community.
A new survey based out of Virginia discovered that Ken Cuccinelli has the support of roughly 5 percent of black voters in Virginia which is typical of most Republican elected officials today. Meanwhile, in the Garden State, Rutgers polls indicated that Christie, who already had a pretty diverse cabinet from day one, attracts around 30 percent of black voters, which for a Republican is unheard of. Since the days of the late President Kennedy, Democrats have typically garnered more of the black vote, compared to that of Republicans.
Just imagine if conservative strategists and GOP political operatives for once decided to focus less on the growing Latino electorate, and redirect their focus to the idea that African-Americans represent a slightly larger share of the electorate. Why? Latino’s are more in numbers, yet African-Americans are more likely to be eligible to vote and turnout rates tend to be higher amongst black voters.
The challenge in New Jersey, Virginia and even Ohio, is now how do Republicans expect to win and appeal to black voters, which doesn’t mean hiring people simply because they are black. Under the leadership of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, the party has embraced a wide array of conservative African-American candidates, none of which have had ultra success in having real crossover appeal. So far, black Tea Party candidates have failed to make deep inroads among black voters in their own districts. For example, Cuccinelli’s running mate, and Virginia’s State Lt. Governor Bishop E.W. Jackson, is an African-American Baptist Pastor, who only has 1 percent of the support of black voters, not even close to being competitive.
In New Jersey, a traditional blue state, Christie’s re-election effort offers a different recipe for appealing to African-Americans. Rather than relying on surrogates, like that of the GOP through their “growth and opportunity initiative”, Christie has spent considerable time campaigning in New Jersey’s heavily-black urban centers, in some of the poorest neighborhoods.
Until the next Presidential election cycle, it is not yet clear if Republican candidates can win over Black voters nationally, but Christie has demonstrated that shifting to the center can have its benefits.
So why has it taken so long for blacks voters to be priority? A coalition of strict conservative groups has always fought to seize control of the Republican agenda, which has already failed twice in its attempt to defeat the Obama administration. Of these conservative groups, many have shared their beliefs that the Republican agenda stand strong on its strict conservative message, with little to no compromise.
Some of these conservative groups and Tea Party based organizations are warning elected officials that their aggressive agenda still isn’t over —threatening against any Republicans that stands in their way, or compromises, which could have a negative effect on Christie’s future. Mainstream GOP groups are now beginning to question their conservative stance in Washington, D.C. and are disappointed by not having the authority to shape the GOP’s agenda, which for years has avoided Black’ outreach.
Behind the scenes, GOP officials are questioning the right-wing’s ultimate goal, which in practice, not rhetoric; tends not to view diversity as a priority. National republican officials are watching for new signs of rifts in Tuesday’s elections, which makes New Jersey and Virginia the top key raises to watch, giving a glimpse to 2016’. Recently, a Washington Post News poll found that 60 percent of Americans already have a negative view of the Republican Party, which is unfortunately, the worst rating for the GOP since the Nixon Presidency.
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