If Mitt Romney wants to reach 270 electoral votes, and win the presidency, he must aggressively target Asian-American voters.
Asians -- Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Filipinos, Vietnamese and Koreans -- are the nation's wealthiest, most highly educated and most aspirational voting demographic. Their numbers have grown by more than 40 percent in the last decade, and they are concentrated in key electoral battleground states like Nevada, Michigan, Colorado, Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Despite surveys showing Asian-Americans as more favorable toward Obama and government than the general public, their actual voting behavior in recent elections offers Romney an opportunity. Look to 2009, the year Republicans recovered from the Obama blowout and stormed back to retake the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey.
Republican Bob McDonnell targeted Asian-Americans energetically, even though they constitute just 5.9 percent of Virginians. He employed multiple strategies, such as asking Asian business owners to publicly communicate their support by putting McDonnell signs in their storefronts. His campaign communicated with Asian-American voters in their native languages in everything from mailers to radio ads to yard signs. A postelection survey of Asian-American voters in Northern Virginia found that nearly 60 percent voted for McDonnell.
Middlesex, New Jersey's second most populous county, is a perennial Democratic bastion, but in 2009, it went for Chris Christie by 48 percent to 44 percent -- almost precisely his statewide margin. Not coincidentally, Middlesex now has among the highest percentages of Asian-Americans outside of Hawaii and the San Francisco Bay area.
Asian-American voters are not immune to the national backlash against Obama's big government blowout. Their values and attitudes, by and large, hew more closely to the GOP economic policies, emphasizing hard work, parental involvement in education, the permanence of marriage and family unity. They link success to individual achievement rather than government beneficence.
Romney doesn't need to win the Asian-American vote outright. It would be enough to improve substantially on the 35 percent that John McCain won. Given the clusters of Asian-American voters who now reside in battleground states, a serious outreach strategy along the lines of McDonnell's successful gubernatorial campaign illuminates a pathway to victory.
There are hundreds of media outlets in battleground states through which Romney can reach Asian-American voters cheaply in their native languages -- especially to Korean, Vietnamese and Filipino audiences, where pro-Republican sentiment is strongest. The Korean Times, for example, has 13 bureaus in the U.S. and a daily edition circulation larger than the Los Angeles Times.
Nevada, Michigan, Colorado, Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania between them hold 111 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. Obama carried them all in 2008. Romney needs to flip them. Asian-Americans comprise, on average, 3.8 percent of the population of those states, which could exceed the margin in a close election. A relatively modest investment by Team Romney in Asian outreach, out of the tens of millions it will pour into these states, could put him in the White House. And if, as Democratic strategists fear, turnout by Asian-Americans and other minorities falls below 2008 levels, the decline would occur chiefly among Obama supporters, amplifying any inroads that Romney makes.
The stakes for the future of liberty and limited government are simply too high for the Romney campaign to leave any stone unturned in the search for voters. By dedicating real resources to a sustained, strategic campaign of messaging and get-out-the-vote aimed at Asian-American voters, Romney will not only win the White House, but also lay the foundation for a new Republican majority with the fast-growing Asian voting population as a key pillar.
Shawn Steel is California's Republican National Committeeman and a former chairman of the California Republican Party.