THE TALE OF TWO ELECTORATES, OHIO AND NEW JERSEY TELLTALE SIGNS

Voters of Color May Impact New Jersey’s 2013 Governor’s Race

English: The African American Museum in Cleveland

English: The African American Museum in Cleveland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Kirk Clay

Holy Toledo, Ohio has become a bellwether for American political trends. Can you believe that the President has solidified a lead in the once elusively red state? As the saying goes, so goes Ohio so goes the nation. All it took was a modern day “Lunch Pail / Hard Hat Coalition” which includes progressive Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Women, Young Voters, and Unions. Amazingly the President has never trailed Romney in the buckeye state.

Recently, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tried his hand at helping the GOP connect with Ohioans. It didn’t work.  It seems that the re-elect’s recent endorsement from New Jersey vanguard Bruce Springsteen connected with blue-collar voters better than the “Christie Ohio Tour.” This highlights the impact this coalition will have in November 2012 and 2013.

As this election season winds down, Chris Christie is at the top of the list of candidates who will feel the impact of November’s results when their names appear on the ballot in 2013. For starters, the presidential election has pitted Christie’s regressive “47%” style of conservative policies against a surging “all-inclusive” progressive style of polices. Voters aren’t buying it. They don’t trust Romney and next year voters are going to be suspicious of all Romney supporters. His positions on issues like Obamacare, Medicare and the auto bailout will linger through 2013.

These kinds of positions worked for Christie in 2009 before voters had a chance to notice the difference in priorities between the two parties. Now, we are starting to see the effects on voters in Ohio and New Jersey. Also, it’s fair to say that Christie’s highly visible role in this Presidential election may have exposed possible weaknesses that could damage his re-election bid. A recent poll from Eagleton Institute of Politics underscored how serious of an issue this may be for Christie. According to the study:

• Close to 57% of New Jersey voters support the Obamacare court decision;
• independents are in support 56% to 35%;
• many Voter of Color (VOC) including 77% of African Americans support the decision;
• 61% of young people were happy law was upheld;
• and 69% of New Jersey residents reject the GOP’s plan to voucherize Medicare.

Adding to that, 47% of voters say that it is time for a new Governor.  Christie’s re-election support with independents is down 5 points from August.  Meanwhile, the same poll shows his unfavorable number among all voters up two points. It’s telling that women only give him a 43% positive with 59% of voters under 30 saying they will not vote for him. To top it off he has lost support from workers earning between $100k and $150k with 51% wanting to vote for someone else.

What are the dynamics at play in New Jersey and why is the Governor having such a hard time locking in New Jersey voters? Political experts are beginning to notice a philosophical and political trend that may give us an idea. It seems that voters in Springsteen’s New Jersey are fundamentally different from Christie’s. This holds true for Ohio as well. It’s not incidental that voters in both states embrace policies supporting working class men and women and reject policies that center around the “virtues of selfishness.” Adding to the mix, there are sizable shifts in New Jersey’s population creating substantial demographic trends.

In particular, Governor Christie received 9% of the African American vote and 32% of the Latino vote in 2009 when he flipped a blue state to red.  This was a significant factor given that in 2005 the Democrat candidate won 98% and 68% of the African American and Latino vote respectively. We see the impact of voters of color (VOC) when you look at Middlesex County where the Democrat candidate was defeated for the first time in decades 47% to 45%. Note that the population in that county, which includes New Brunswick, has grown 8% and is now 10% African American, 18% Latino, and 21% Asian Pacific Islander.

This dynamic played a significant role in New Jersey where VOC were 25% of the electorate in 2009 but 30% in 2010. Census data shows cities like New Brunswick growing 2.3% to 55,181 and now having well over 14,000 key VOC on the voter rolls.

Looking forward to November 2013, the fundamentals are beginning to take shape. Though no one can predict what will happen in the next year, one thing is true — New Jersey’s electorate has already begun to demonstrate the impact of their changing demographics. Therefore, any candidate with an effective strategy to embrace the heart of the “Lunch Pail / Hard Hat Coalition” will find themselves well positioned to shock the political world.

There is no doubt that Latino and African American voters will impact this and future elections. The truth is, they have always been significant threads in the political fabric of this nation and continue to become more valuable every election. That’s probably the best part of our democracy; our collective vote represents our guiding beliefs. Everyone has one ballot, it doesn’t matter where you came from, your zip code or how you got here. We all are worthy of respect and deserve the right to cast and have our ballots counted. Likewise, putting self-interest before compassion is not an American value, it’s selfish. Being selfish doesn’t just prove that you lack a sense of empathy; it proves that you lack common sense as well. That’s popping the CLUTCH.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac

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