News Column

GOP Convention Tries to Tap Hispanics, Blacks and Women

Aug. 27, 2012
Republican National Committee

With the 2012 Republican National Convention just around the corner, the GOP is making a concerted effort to re-vamp its image from the rich, white guys' party to one that is more inclusive of Hispanics, blacks and women.

The United States is undergoing a major demographic shift as the Hispanic population explodes and minority births this year for the first time surpassed those of whites. In order to survive and thrive, the GOP knows it must do more to reach out to groups not typically associated with it.

Besides rallying around presidential challenger Mitt Romney, the convention aims to "show that the GOP is not just a party of old, white men. It is a party of diversity," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

"There's a real focus this time on Hispanics and women, and the party recognizes that they cannot continue to win at the ballot box if they're not speaking to Hispanics and college-educated single women," he said.

Indeed, the event will focus on Latinos more than any Republican national conventions did in history, with a number of prominent Latino leaders speaking during pivotal time slots. That marks a major shift from the 2008 event, which was blasted as featuring an overwhelming majority of white speakers.

Slated to speak is Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, whose Latino heritage could help peel off supporters from a group that often votes Democratic.

Rubio will take the high-profile slot just before Romney and is set to introduce the former Massachusetts governor before Romney formally accepts the GOP nomination.

Hispanics voted for Obama in 2008 over his Republican rival by a margin of more than 2 to 1. In 2004, the GOP fared better with Latinos, with former President George W. Bush garnering 44 percent of the vote.

Mia Love, mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, is also slated to speak at the convention next Tuesday evening. Love, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, is running for Congress. If she wins, she will be the first black Congresswoman in the GOP.

Love, who has landed a prime time spot to address the convention, is one of the three African Americans to make an address at the convention, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez will take the stage before keynote speaker Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey. Martinez, the first female governor in her state and the first female Hispanic governor in the United States, is taking a coveted time slot reserved for the party's rising stars, such as Mitt Romney in 2004.

Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno is also slated to speak at the event, as is Nikki Haley, the first female governor of South Carolina.

But the question remains whether the GOP can garner the type of long-term commitment from minorities that it needs to be successful in the decades to come.

Jennifer Marsico, senior research associate at the American Enterprise Institute, said many minority groups' political identification is fairly set and hard to move, such as African American support for the Democratic Party.

"But among certain small or expanding minority groups in the U.S., there is more malleability when it comes to political affiliation," she said.

"Speakers like Martinez and Rubio, both very popular in their respective home states of New Mexico and Florida, could definitely help in shoring up votes from the Hispanic community," she said. "However, it is hard to say for sure whether such votes would end up turning into party loyalty."

Darrell M. West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, said future demographic trends are on the side of Democrats if the GOP continues to push what he called an agenda that alienates women and minorities.

It is important to have younger leaders speaking at the convention who come from diverse backgrounds and do not reinforce existing stereotypes about the party, West said.

Any convention must highlight up-and-coming leaders who can speak on behalf of where the party plans to go in the future, he said.

"Republicans have a number of young stars who will be articulate spokespersons for the 21st century GOP," he said.

The Hispanic vote is often viewed as monolithic, although there is much diversification within the demographic itself, analysts said. For example, attempting to garner support from a Mexican American in the southwest is a more different task than appealing to a Cuban American in Florida.

Some analysts said more Spanish language ads are needed to tap Hispanic voters, as Spanish-language media is growing rapidly.

Source: Copyright Xinhua News Agency - CEIS 2012

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