Republicans left to ponder party's appeal

Fri, Nov 9, 2012, 00:00

US Republican leaders were facing up to agonising questions yesterday about how to widen the party’s demographic appeal, while at the same time holding together its diverse coalition of conservative groups.

Exit polls from the presidential election show Republican challenger Mitt Romney secured a majority of the white vote. But he trailed President Obama by a wide margin when it came to Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians, who make up an increasing proportion of the electorate.

Senior party figures admitted that the results called for a major internal reassessment of the party’s direction.

Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican who led the party’s Senate campaign, said the loss of two seats for the party in the US Senate, upper house of Congress, meant the party now “had a period of reflection and recalibration ahead”.

But other party figures, like Pennsylvania Republican campaign adviser Charlie Gerow, warned that change will need to come without shattering the coalition of religious and libertarian-minded conservatives which gave the party control of the White House for 20 of the past 32 years.

Former Reagan White House official Donald Devine told the Washington Times: “Conservatives need to revisit everything except the basic formula, ‘Conservatives – libertarian means for traditionalist ends’.”

As soul-searching and recrimination continues over the party’s future direction, attention is already beginning to focus on selecting a Republican leader who would have wider appeal to conservatives as well as minority groups.

Florida senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American, is one of the names being mentioned as a credible contender. Mr Rubio rode a wave of support from the Tea Party wing of the Republicans to win a Senate seat two years ago.

He pushed for the conservatives to have a broader appeal to minority and immigrant communities in a statement he released earlier this week, which also congratulated Mr Obama on his victory.

Blue collar voters

Other names being mentioned by party figures as possible contenders include New Jersey governor Chris Christie. He was widely criticised for his praise of President Obama in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy but is regarded as having a broad appeal to blue-collar voters.

Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and whose wife is Mexican, has also managed to attract significant support and vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan is also likely to feature in any leadership race. Similarly, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

Another contender is likely to be Susana Martinez of New Mexico, who became the first US Latina state governor when she was elected in 2010. She is of Mexican descent.