Republicans Can Take Lessons From Bruce Rauner’s Win in Illinois

Tom Bevan, executive editor for Real Clear Politcs, has a good piece at RCP today on what the GOP can learn from governor-elect Bruce Rauner’s campaign in Illinois. It was a campaign that mirrored the 2012 presidential campaign more than any other, with the billionaire business executive Rauner pitted against the unpopular incumbent and career politician Pat Quinn. But unlike Romney, Rauner made a point of campaigning in minority communities in urban areas, seeking to broaden his appeal.

As Bevan writes:

Rauner, too, heard from those who proclaimed this a wasted effort. He wasn’t going to change any minds, these critics told him, and he should spend his time campaigning where the votes were truly up for grabs.

On the surface, the critics were proven right. Rauner received only 7 percent of the African-American vote Tuesday, just one percentage point better than Republican Bill Brady received four years earlier en route to losing to Quinn by 32,000 votes (out of 3.5 million ballots cast) during another banner Republican year.

But that only tells part of the story. Rauner outperformed Brady by four points in the city of Chicago (21 percent-17 percent), by five points in the Cook County suburbs (45-40 percent), by seven points in the collar counties (60-53) and by 15 points in urban areas overall (37-22). …

Rauner won by generating much broader appeal than Brady did among moderates, city dwellers, suburbanites, and Democrats. It’s impossible to say precisely how much his outreach efforts to minorities contributed to his broadened appeal among those groups, but it’s apparent that it helped.

In other words, even though Rauner’s outreach didn’t win over many African-Americans this year, it wasn’t a waste of time. For one thing, part of the equation in making sincere minority outreach is making Republican candidates palatable to white swing voters who are receptive to a conservative appeal — but only if it contains no hint of racism.

It took decades for the party to find itself in dire straits with African-American voters, and it will take years of diligent campaigning in black neighborhoods before the GOP becomes competitive again.  But putting in the effort with minorities pays dividends with other groups, and helps change the perception of the party overall, something most Republicans agree the party needs to do if it wants to ever retake the White House.

Read more at Real Clear Politics.