Convention Speakers Showcase GOP's Challenges, Weaknesses
Three minority female GOP leaders will speak at the Republican National Convention this month.
When the GOP announced its first round of speakers for its quadriennial convention in Tampa, Fla., later this month, one thing became clear:
This is the year for minority women.
The GOP announced S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley will join New Mexico’s Gov. Susana Martinez and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with substantial speaking roles.
These women will be joined by other GOP leaders such as John McCain and Rick Santorum, but the emphasis on women and minorities is clear.
Martinez is the first female Hispanic governor in the country, while Rice was the first African-American woman to serve as Secretary of State. Haley — who is of Indian descent, and was raised as a Sikh — is South Carolina's first governor who is a minority or woman.
The announcement was a clear sign to some.
Karen Floyd, former chair of the SCGOP, said the choices are strategic ones, as Romney’s biggest challenge lies in “mobilizing the Independents.”
“It’s great,” she said. “Women represent 52 percent of the voting public. He understands the strength of this demographic.”
Floyd said that Romney’s wife was correct when she “so adeptly said” that women need important roles within the GOP.
“The emergence of these women who’ve achieved leadership positions in the Republican party speaks for the party as well for the general public,” she said.
Floyd added: “I think that Governor Haley represents the emerging demographic of Republican women in leadership. [She’s] a woman from Indian descent who’s ascending despite the odds.”
Floyd said that Haley represents the state’s significant change, “a broader perspective, a willingness to broaden the traditional Republican base.”
According to an ABC News and Washington Post poll, Obama is more favorable than Romney with female voters. Fifty-eight percent of women see Obama favorably, versus 47 percent of men. Romney fares better with men: 44 percent of men view him favorably verus 36 percent of women. Among women, Obama leads Romney by 22 percentage points.
Robert “Bob” Oldendick, professor of political science at the University of South Carolina, said the strategy is “straightforward.”
“The leaders of the party recognize if they have a weakness, it’s with minority women,” he said. “Having an ability to showcase these women with diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds gives them an opportunity to appeal to these voters.”
Lin Bennett, chair of the Charleston County GOP, said the women's platforms matter more than their gender and ethnic background, even though they will attract women and minorites.
"No, I don’t think it's a strategy," she said. "The strategy is that we have a lot of energizing young people getting involved in state levels and in congressional and senate politics, and they’re the future leaders. They just happen to be wonderful women."
She added: "I don’t think in the lines of whether soemone's a woman or a minority...I vote for the platform. l'm always excited when women and minorities are involved, but more Conservatives and Independents look at their platforms."
The GOP leaders will precede Romney’s presidential nomination acceptance.