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Lessons from the 2013 elections: Republicans need to ‘show up’ every once in a while if they want to win

Chris ChristieEveryone has their own opinions about why New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie won big Tuesday night, and what his win means for both the future of the Republican party and the 2016 presidential race. But if the party wants to be more successful in the future, perhaps it’s not just important to learn from the Christie 2013 campaign playbook – but to actually heed his advice and run with it.

In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 700,000, winning statewide as a Republican is difficult. Winning statewide as a Republican in a landslide, however, is so difficult that it’s been done just twice in the past 30 years. Yet Christie did it, and it wasn’t just because of his actions during the Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts or the weak campaign mounted by his opponent, Democratic State Sen. Barbara Buono.

The governor said it best Wednesday when, in a speech before students at the Jose Marti Freshman Academy in Union City, he explained how he was able to carry a Democratic stronghold like New Jersey by 20 points the night before.

“You have to spend time, you have to sit and listen, you have to show up,” Christie said. “As I said in my speech last night, the problems 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’ll fool people – but you don’t.”

“If you want to make inroads in your community, you’ve got to get there and work it,” he added.

Christie’s speech Wednesday happened to be in front of a largely Latino community – a group that Republicans have, for the most part, lost in recent years through their position on immigration reform. The governor, however, carried the state’s Latino population Tuesday 51 percent to 45 percent, an increase of 19 points from his 2009 vote total.

The governor also won a whopping 32 percent of Democrats – an increase of 24 percent in four years – and 57 percent of female voters Tuesday night. Christie even outperformed expectations among Millennials in the state, winning 49 percent of the 18-29-year-old vote when just four years ago he carried a mere 36 percent of young voters against then-Gov. Jon Corzine.

Christie won reelection Tuesday night because voters came out in droves for him, not his party or a particular issue. His coattails were almost non-existent Tuesday night, with just one State Assembly seat changing hands. Garden State voters even passed overwhelmingly a ballot measure that will raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 on January 1 – a measure that Christie himself vetoed when it passed in the State Legislature earlier this year.

In contrast, the opposite result happened in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and come January Democrat Terry McAuliffe will be sworn in as the state’s next governor. The race between McAuliffe and state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli may have been closer than expected, however Cuccinelli’s focus on issues – let alone social issues – as Attorney General made it easier for McAuliffe to woo over moderates and swing voters.

The good news is that there is still a full year before the 2014 Midterm elections, thus giving the GOP plenty of time to refocus its message and put into play a winning strategy. Perhaps it’s time the party took a page out of the Chris Christie playbook and “showed up” every once in a while if it’s serious about keeping the House and gaining seats in the Senate.

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