What do Tuesday's elections for governor say about the future of the Republican Party? The path to victory leads through the nation's melting pot suburbs.
Look no further than Bergen County, N.J., and Fairfax County, Va., for the evidence. Both are the most populous in their state. Like the nation as a whole, both counties were once almost uniformly white and leaned Republican, but are now increasingly multiracial and vote Democratic in presidential elections.
On his way to a statewide victory, Gov. Chris Christie won Bergen County by 46,000 votes, improving on his 2009 performance, when he narrowly lost the county to Democrat Jon Corzine. In contrast, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, best known for his social conservatism, lost Fairfax County by 66,000 votes, along with Tuesday's election. That's a major step backward, given that current Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell narrowly won Fairfax in 2009. McAuliffe also carried Prince William County, 52-44%, and Loudoun County, 50-45%.
"Our guys don't understand [suburban] areas like Northern Virginia, suburban Philadelphia, areas that used to be our base. We're getting smoked in these areas," said former Republican congressman Tom Davis, who represented a Fairfax County-based House seat from 1992 to 2008. "Northern Virginia is a disaster for Republicans, these [statewide candidates] do not know how to run up here. They focus so hard on the social issues, cultural stuff."
No wonder then, that Republican strategists have pointed to Christie's resounding victory—racking up sizable leads in diverse, suburban parts of the Garden State via his moderate appeal—as a model for the party's candidates to emulate. It works.