(The Root)—Although the Republican National Committee’s 2012 “autopsy” report has been gathering dust on the shelf ever since it was rolled out to much fanfare earlier this year, it looks like at least one 2016 presidential contender actually printed off that report and read the part about the urgent need for Republicans to make inroads with voters of color: Chris Christie.
On his way to winning a second term as New Jersey’s governor in Tuesday’s off-year election, he won nearly every key demographic, including women, seniors and self-described independents.
But what jumps off the page when you look at the exit polls are the 51 percent of Latinos and 21 percent of black voters who pulled the lever for Christie. It’s not an outright majority of minority votes, but when you compare the governor’s numbers with the dismal 27 percent of Latinos and 6 percent of black votes that Mitt Romney won in 2012—and factor in the GOP’s struggles to appeal to minorities—Christie’s numbers look pretty formidable.
Now everyone’s taking notice.
The Daily Beast’s John Avlon wrote that, “Without pandering, Christie made real progress in appealing to voters outside the lily-white confines of the conservative base.” And as the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart matter-of-factly explained, “African Americans and Latinos will vote for Republicans if those candidates give them a reason to do so”—something that should have been obvious to Republican candidates all along.
Even if Christie didn’t actually get around to reading that RNC report, he wound up validating its findings by taking the same steps that it outlines to avoid “writing off” black and Latino voters.
How’d he do it?
For starters, Christie mostly eschews the nonstop demonization of President Barack Obama that characterizes a lot of GOP politics these days—and that most voters of color consider a deal-breaker. More recently, Christie’s been critical of the president’s handling of Obamacare, but last year, he went out of his way to be seen as reaching across the aisle when he toured the Jersey Shore alongside the president after super-storm Sandy.