Posted by on November 07, 2012 in Blog

Ahead of yesterday’s election, conventional wisdom and historical precedent dictated that whoever won Loudoun County in Virginia, would almost certainly win the rest of the state. Before the results came in, Loudoun County was the biggest swing county in Virginia, and both campaigns fought it out for a win there. But what ultimately caused Loudoun – and consequently the rest of the state – to go blue, was the Obama campaign’s exceptional ground game, which focused on turning out the ethnic vote that included a sizable Arab American community.

However, the primary take-away from the results in Loudoun is not just the amount of Arab American or ethnic votes that may have gone to Obama and Kaine (we estimate that the number of Arab Americans in Loudon Country is only about 10,000), it’s also about the amount of votes Arab Americans and other ethnic voters helped to turn out.

For several weeks, “Organizing for America in Virginia,” the Obama campaign’s grassroots initiative, actively sought Arab American, American Muslim, and South Asian community members to canvass and phone bank in Loudoun. The primary objective was to get out the vote in their respective neighborhoods, but also to use the group to go door-to-door and engage other demographics as well. So, in addition to targeting Arab American, South Asian American, and American Muslim neighborhoods to get out the vote, OFA volunteers also helped target white voters who make up the overwhelming majority in Loudoun. The result of their efforts could very well have made the difference in Loudoun; Obama won the county by less than 1,000 votes.

By contrast, the Romney campaign did not have the same inclusive grassroots approach and struggled to court and recruit ethnic voters to their ranks. Though Loudoun is predominantly white, a broader, more inclusive approach might have helped Romney significantly. The campaign did not seem to recognize the importance of engaging ethnic voters, especially those who were undecided or disillusioned with Obama’s policies. For its part, though, the Romney campaign did show an inclination toward courting Arab American and other ethnic voters, including through their formal recognition of “Arab Americans for Romney” which included leaders of the Arab American community in Virginia. However, the issue for Romney (and, one could argue, for the larger Republican Party), was the inability or the unwillingness to include ethnic groups in the ground-work of their campaigns. With demographic changes poised to continue to change the dynamics of the American electorate, candidates and campaigns will need to find ways to engage a number of different demographics simultaneously, or risk losing tough races.  

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