Will Chris Christie’s Bridge Scandal Cost the GOP Minority Voters in 2016?
2014 is barely a week old, and yet the year has already given us its first political scandalâ€”one that potentially has ramifications for years to come.
A string of emails published Wednesday byÂ the Bergen Country RecordÂ suggest that staffers in the office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie coaxed a Port Authority staffer to close lanes on the George Washington Bridgeâ€”crippling traffic and sparking outrage.
The alleged motive was to punish a political foe of Christie, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, whose residents were those most likely to be affected by the closures. In an emotional news conference on Thursday, Christie announced he had fired longtime aide Bridget Kelly, whose email triggered the chain of events. He also cut ties with his former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, who was forced to forgo his relationship with the Republican Governorâ€™s Association, of which Christie is now head.
But Kelly and Stepien are unlikely to be the only political casualties from what some are calling â€śbridge-gateâ€ť and others have deemed â€śbridge-ghazi.â€ť The other major loser, besides Christie himself, is the national Republican Party. Christie was the GOPâ€™s only real hope of winning back the White House in 2016. More specifically, he was Republicansâ€™ only hope of saving their party from completing its permanent transition into the party of older white voters.
In 2012, when the Republican electorate was whiter than it had been in decades, black voter turnout for the first time surpassed that of whites, and the partyâ€™s nominee, Mitt Romney, lostâ€”unable to contend with President Barack Obamaâ€™s more diverse coalition. As the Pew Research Center noted, nonwhite voters made up 23.6 percent of all voters in the 2012 election, which was a record. It prompted the National Journalâ€™s Ron Brownstein to summarize his post-2012 analysis thusly:Â Â â€śRepublicans Canâ€™t Win With White Voters Alone.â€ť
Which is why the Christie implosion is so problematic for the GOP. Of all the likely 2016 contenders, Christie is the only one with any shot of wooing and winning voters of color.
How do we know? Because polls have said so, as have some of his high-profile celebrity supporters. As previouslyÂ covered onÂ The Root,Â during his re-election campaign, polls showed that his support from black voters was as high as 36 percent. Thatâ€™s quite a bit higher than the 8 percent of black-voter support captured by Romney, and definitely higher than the 4 percent Sen. John McCain won in 2008.
But the reality is that the GOP doesnâ€™t need its nominee to win 36 percent of black voters nationally to win the White House. As George W. Bush proved, getting into the double digits might be enough. Black voters areÂ credited with deliveringÂ Ohio to the Republican in 2004. Although Bush won 11 percent of the black vote nationally, he won 13 percent in Florida and 16 percent in Ohio, in part thanks to the stateâ€™s battle over same-sex marriage at the time, which is said to have mobilized some of the communityâ€™s more socially conservative black voters.
Christie was the GOPâ€™s best hope of replicating the Bush strategy. During his recent campaign, basketball starÂ Shaquille Oâ€™Neal endorsed ChristieÂ after working with the governor to bring jobs back to Newark, Oâ€™Nealâ€™s hometown. Shaq called in toÂ TMZÂ on Thursday to say that he still supports the governor.
Source: The Root | Keli Goff