Convention lineup crafted to change perception the GOP is ‘the party of middle-aged white men’
A black former top diplomat, a Cuban-born senator, an Indian-American governor — the speakers list for next week’s Republican National Convention reads like a conservative Rainbow Coalition.
The convention, which will formally tap former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as the party’s presidential candidate, headlines a multi-hued line-up meant to belie its image as the party of middle-aged white men.
Prominent minority political leaders have been tapped to deliver primetime speeches at the convention, a four-day long pep rally meant to whip up support for Romney as he tries to unseat Democratic President Barack Obama.
Sylvia Manzano, a political scientist at Texas A and M University, said the list of speakers is a clear attempt to woo voters of color, particularly Hispanic voters, seen as more likely recruits than black Americans.
“Having those people will probably draw a few more Latino viewers, and will also lower the propensity to change the channel,” she told USA Today.
The intended message for Hispanic voters, she said, is, “‘Here’s the reason I am a Republican and here’s what we have in common.'”
Marco Rubio, a Cuban-emigre and a senator for Florida who is among the Republicans’ most prominent rising stars, has been given the high honor of formally introducing Romney to the crowd.
Top speaking slots also have been given to New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz, a rising star of the Tea Party movement, as well as several other Hispanics.
News reports have also said that the Republican convention, held this year in the city of Tampa, Florida, will feature no fewer than 10 Latino-themed events, more than ever before.
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, an Indian-American, will have a speaking role at the event, which runs from August 27 to 30.
Meanwhile African Americans, who are famously reluctant to vote for Republican candidates — perhaps especially when the incumbent Democrat president is himself black — are also being wooed.
Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, will address the crowd, as will fresh-faced up-and-comer Mia Love, an African American running as a Republican in the conservative state of Utah.
It is far from clear, however, whether the cavalcade of black and Hispanic speakers will improve Romney’s appeal to minority voters.
A poll this week by NBC shows that, against Obama, Romney could expect to win precisely zero support among African Americans. The poll had a wide margin of error, but clearly the Republican is fighting a losing battle.
Hispanics meanwhile said they preferred Obama over Romney by 63 to 28 percent — a more than two-to-one margin.
David Bositis, of the Joint Center on Economic Studies, a think tank studying issues of concern to the black community, denounced a “to make them look something unlike what they in fact are. They are a white party.”
Bositis said the Republican policy platform — both at the convention and in Congress — is seen as anathema to the interests of many minority voters.
And he attacked Republican-led efforts in key election battleground states to tighten voter identification requirements — moves that many analysts say would disproportionately affect minorities and the poor.
“Why would any black voter support the Republicans when the Republicans are trying to take their votes away? That’s more basic than anything else. If you want to take my vote that means you really want me out of the way,” he said.
Pundits point out that the party platform written this week and which will be endorsed by delegates at the convention calls for completing a fence across the US-Mexican border — a position very unpopular with Hispanic voters.
The party also is viewed as hostile to other issues supported by Latinos, including DREAM Act legislation in the US Congress which would have normalized the legal status of thousands of Latino children and young adults.
Obama meanwhile, did an end-run around lawmakers by issuing a decree temporarily suspending the deportation of some young undocumented immigrants.
Against that backdrop, Bositis said he doubts that a parade of black and Latino speakers on the podium will increase in minority support for Republicans ahead of this year’s vote.
“Will it have any effect on people’s impressions of where Republicans stand? No,” he said, adding: It’s not going to make any difference except in terms of the optics.”