(Photo: REUTERS/Joe Skipper)
This year more than ever, the GOP gathering in Tampa highlights the growing number of African-American, Hispanic and female politicos involved in the Republican Party, many of whom the party believes will be rising stars and leaders for the next several decades.
No one argues most of the delegates and guest in the convention hall in Tampa are white. However, every four years the shade of the group gains more color. Some of those who have already taken the stage or will before the final gavel is sounded include Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, former Democrat Congressman-turned Republican Artur Davis, Utah Congressional Candidate Mia Love, Florida Congressman and GOP superstar Marco Rubio and new sensation, Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz.
A total of 14 women will take the stage before the convention adjourns.
The reason for the shifting patterns in color and sex demonstrates the party's need to broaden its base if it expects to successfully compete for voters in 2012 and in the future. Republicans have attempted to court the black vote for the past couple of decades but those efforts have produced only a handful of GOP elected officials and an even smaller percentage of the vote nationwide.
However, the bigger prize for Republicans is to capture the growing Hispanic population that is growing in states such as Texas, California, New York, Florida and most other southern states. Both the advantage and disadvantage for Republicans are Hispanics tend to be swing voters and appealing to them is now more important than ever before.
"It's part of that sort of acceptance of the fact that this is a segment of the electorate that has to be incorporated in an institutional way, and ultimately that's what we want to see," Arturo Davis, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Davis noted that both parties are spending a fair amount of resources reaching out to Latinos and that immigration will be a key area that voters will want to hear the parties discuss.
Pollster White Ayers points out that the Hispanic vote is not monolithic, noting that Mexican-Americans lean more Democratic while Cuban-Americans tend to favor Republicans. Ayers also believes Republicans must make sure their tone and substance are what will draw more Hispanics to the party.
"We need to adopt a tone that talks about Hispanics as voters we want in the Republican coalition rather than folks to run against," Ayres said, referring to the charged politics of immigration policy.
Yet with the new lineup of speakers, few have received the attention that Love has gotten. In fact, until this week's convention, only a handful of people outside of her adopted state have heard of her. Love is the black mayor of a Utah town and she also happens to be Mormon. Even one of her opponents whom she defeated on the way to her primary victory was elated to see her take the stage and be introduced to a national audience.
"She says a lot about the state of Utah and about where we are as a country," Utah State Legislator Stephen Sandstrom told Time. "She's combating stereotypes about what it means to be a Republican. We're a big tent."