After an election in which Mitt Romney lost the black, Asian and Latino vote by landslide margins, the news just got worse for the Republican Party.
With Florida GOP Rep. Allen West's concession Tuesday, the face of the GOP got a little whiter, ending an election season in which the already undersized contingent of black, Hispanic and Asian Republicans in Congress grew even smaller.
For a party that's struggling to present a public face that looks more like America, the 2012 election represents something close to a worst-case scenario.
The number of African-American Republicans in Congress, which stood to double thanks to several highly competitive candidates, was instead cut in half, to a single member. The last Asian-American Republican retired and wasn't replaced. In a year when a record number of Hispanics were elected to Congress, House Republicans ended up losing two of their already small contingent. Puerto Rico GOP Gov. Luis Fortu
In the Senate, there was a GOP ray of hope with the election of Ted Cruz, a Cuban-American from Texas. But in a chamber that will have a record number of women next year thanks to the election of four new Democratic women and the reelection of six female Senate incumbents, the number of female Republicans actually declined by one.
The final tally: Democrats have 16 female senators, Republicans only four.
All in all, Nov. 6 was a grim day for a party that already had a glaring diversity problem.
"Let's face it, the Republican Party has to do a better job of fielding and electing candidates that look and talk like the America of the second decade of the 21st century," said Michigan-based GOP consultant Dennis Lennox.
Unlike in past years, the problem wasn't exactly a lack of serious prospects. The GOP had a handful of celebrated and well-financed black and Latino challengers -- among them, House candidates Abel Maldonado of California, Vernon Parker of Arizona, and the best-known of them all, Mia Love of Utah -- but all of them fell short in the end.
Maldonado and Love failed to oust Democratic incumbents; Parker lost a race for an open seat in Arizona.
They weren't the only setbacks in the House: West and Hispanic Reps. Francisco Canseco of Texas and David Rivera of Florida all were defeated in their bids for a second term. While West lost for reasons related to a mismatch of style and district, Canseco and Rivera lost in seats with high percentages of Hispanic voters.
Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador, a board member of the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute, says the focus on the party's diminished minority ranks is misguided and fails to take into account the historic gains achieved by GOP minorities who now represent predominantly white districts.
"It was unfortunate but you look at all the ones who stayed like myself, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Tim Scott," said Labrador, who noted that the Republican incumbents who lost ran in highly competitive swing districts. "The party will continue to promote good candidates regardless of race, ethnicity or gender."
The Senate is a different story for Republicans. There, the GOP faces a distinct gender gap in a chamber that will boast a record number of women next year.
While Republican Deb Fischer was elected to Nebraska's open Senate seat, five other female GOP nominees lost -- placing the number of GOP women in the Senate at four.
Republicans take solace from Cruz's victory in Texas since they can now point to Hispanic GOP senators in two of the nation's largest states -- Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio -- which is one more than on the Democratic side of the aisle.
"Despite the losses of a couple of high profile candidates and officeholders," Lennox said, "we still have more prominent Hispanic candidates than the Democrats."
With Cruz, Rubio and two Hispanic governors (Democrats have none), Republicans are now arguably better positioned than Democrats to put a Hispanic on the presidential ticket in 2016, a scenario that could go a long way toward addressing the party's weakness with Hispanic voters.
And in truth, the presence of Rubio, or New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez or Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval on the GOP's presidential ticket, as either nominee or running mate, would in itself go a long way toward addressing the GOP's white-guy image.
Republicans also are more open to comprehensive immigration legislation after losing the Hispanic vote to Obama by more than 40 points. Even some conservative talkers like Sean Hannity have been quick to embrace the notion that the GOP has to present a friendlier face to Hispanic voters -- who have been only too happy to support candidates like George W. Bush for the Texas statehouse and the White House in the past. Republicans have long believed they can make inroads with Hispanic voters, many of whom are culturally conservative Catholics, but feel they are hamstrung as long as some view the party as stridently anti-immigrant.
Legislation, in the end, may be the easy part. Down ballot, the party still has to find and recruit black, Hispanic and Asian candidates, not to mention women -- no easy task after a year like this when so many of their candidates took a drubbing.
While some are sounding the alarm, Labrador and others warn that the party shouldn't overreact to the losses this year. "It's sad that we don't have those individuals because they were great congressmen, but I don't think it sends a message," he said.
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