It’s too early to say anything about what Mitt Romney gained from the Republican National Convention, but for now, he is still behind President Obama in the race for the White House. If he receives a large boost from the convention — and if it pushes him past 50 percent — then he’ll be well-positioned for November. But regardless of how Romney fares over the next two months, there’s one thing the convention did reveal about the Republican Party — it has a remarkably deep bench of potential presidential candidates.
If Romney loses the election, the spotlight will immediately move to the men and women showcased at the convention. Between Chris Christie, Suzanna Martinez, Marco Rubio, Condoleeza Rice, Brian Sandoval, Scott Walker and Paul Ryan, Republicans have a large number of strong canddiates to run in 2016 (and even 2020).
It almost goes without saying, but the most striking thing about this line-up — especially when you include Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who didn’t speak at the convention — is its racial diversity. In 2016, the Republican Party might have the most diverse presidential primary roster in American history.
This is a genuine achievement; the GOP has made a conscious effort to elevate talented nonwhite politicians. South Carolina Rep. Tim Scott — one of two black Republicans in the House — is widely held as a future heavyhitter in his state’s politics. With Jim DeMint on his last term as senator, there’s a fair chance that Scott will take his place. Likewise, in Texas, conservative groups — including one led by George P. Bush — are intensely focused on recruiting Latinos to run at every level of government.
But while Republicans deserve credit for broadening the image of their party, it’s important to recognize the extent to which diversity on the stage isn’t reflective of diversity in the party itself. Some 87 percent of self-identified Republicans and Republican-leaning voters are white; this includes the vast majority of activists, volunteers, staffers and political professionals. The GOP has made few inroads into minority communities, and is substantively out-of-step with the large majority of nonwhites who hold center to center-left views on most issues.
Indeed, it’s unusual for nonwhite Republicans to represent nonwhite areas; if elected, Mia Love will represent a Utah district that’s 90.8 percent white. Marco Rubio received the large bulk of his support from white Floridians, as did Jindal in Louisiana.
Overall, this leaves the GOP in an unusual position for a major political party — remarkably diverse at its highest levels, but unable to make gains with the people those politicians are supposed to represent.