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GOP Hopes Increased Diversity Attracts New Voters

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GOP Hopes Increased Diversity Attracts New Voters

GOP Hopes Increased Diversity Attracts New Voters

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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So, as we just heard, the GOP is trying to diversify its ranks. After the 2008 election, the Republican Party made a concerted effort to recruit more minority candidates.

As NPR's Debbie Elliott reports, the party is now looking ahead to 2012.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT: The day after the election, one of the GOP's rising stars has some logistics to work through.

Senator-elect MARCO RUBIO (Republican, Florida): And here's what I'll do to make it easier for everybody, I'll answer the Spanish questions in English and Spanish...

ELLIOTT: Florida Senator-elect Marco Rubio.

Sen.-elect RUBIO: (Spanish spoken)

ELLIOTT: Rubio - of Cuban descent - is among the record number of Latino Republicans headed to Capitol Hill.

Mr. ARTURO VARGAS (Executive Director, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials): This was a good year to be a Republican Hispanic candidate.

ELLIOTT: Arturo Vargas is the executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. He says now that the GOP has demonstrated its ability to run strong candidates, the challenge is to bring more Latino voters into the fold.

Mr. VARGAS: Certainly, the Republican Party is being given the opportunity on a silver platter to do just that, to reach across the aisle, to bridge the gap between the Republican Party and the Latino community.

ELLIOTT: At a news conference in Austin yesterday, Juan Hernandez of the political action committee Hispanic Republicans of Texas celebrated record gains in the state legislature, noting how far the group has come.

Mr. JUAN HERNANDEZ (Hispanic Republicans of Texas): It was definitely not cool to be Hispanic, Republican, conservative, but it's getting cooler and cooler, isn't it?

Mr. MICHAEL STEELE (Chairman, Republican National Committee): This is not your mama and your daddy's Republican Party anymore.

ELLIOTT: That's Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, who says he was frustrated to see so few minority delegates at the 2008 convention. The RNC has been working since to diversify its voices.

Mr. STEELE: I think we've got the flaps open. We'll see how big the tent will become.

ELLIOTT: Steele says it's a trend that's overdue. But some minority Republicans are playing down the significance.

In South Carolina, Governor-elect Nikki Haley says what she hopes to accomplish in office is more important than being the state's first woman governor or her Indian-American heritage.

Tim Scott, the state's first African-American Republican elected to Congress since Reconstruction, had a similar message for his supporters on election night.

Representative-elect TIM SCOTT (Republican, South Carolina): All we hear is the issue he's a black Republican. I got to tell you, I'm black, I'm proud, I've got a bald head, and my style is beautiful. But let me just tell you the truth, all those things don't matter.

ELLIOTT: Scott and Allen West of Florida will be the first black Republicans in Congress since Oklahoma's J.C. Watts retired seven years ago.

But don't expect that to have much of an impact on the Republican agenda, says David Bositis, senior political analyst with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

Mr. DAVID BOSITIS (Senior Political Analyst, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies): Having two African-Americans out of 200-whatever-40-some-odd seats in the House of Representatives is not going to change the fact that the Republican Party represents white people.

ELLIOTT: Older whites are still the GOP voter base, he says, and you can see it reflected in the party's caucus.

Mr. BOSITIS: If you had a group picture of the Republican members of the Congress, and if you wanted to use Photoshop to distill it into one face, it would probably look like former Senator Trent Lott.

ELLIOTT: The former Mississippi senator aside, Republicans are hoping their new faces will help bring in new voters come 2012.

Debbie Elliott, NPR News, Washington.

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