warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Rank And File Republicans Threaten Goal Of Broadening Republican Base

Christian Patterson |
August 30, 2012 | 8:47 a.m. PDT


The main issues Americans have identified for this election are the economy and jobs. (Victoria Pickering, Creative Commons)
The main issues Americans have identified for this election are the economy and jobs. (Victoria Pickering, Creative Commons)
Mitt Romney has tried incredibly hard to broaden the base of the Republican Party in the lead-up to November’s election. He’s taken his message of renewed economic prosperity and a resurgent America to the NAACP, Spanish-language television, and has even used high-profile surrogates like his wife to cut into the gender gap.

The Romney campaign believes that, this election, voters will cast their ballots with their pocketbooks in mind. As such, their message to African Americans, Latinos, women and every other group that the Republican Party has traditionally failed to woo, is that the status quo is not working, and that America needs a new commander-in-chief to fix our nation’s economic woes.

Romney and his advisors have many reasons to believe their strategy will be effective. They’re reading the polls that list jobs and the economy as the number one issue for voters this November. They’ve heard the oft-repeated statistic that no president since FDR has won re-election with unemployment numbers this high. They also know that Americans are hurting. The national unemployment rate remains above eight percent. Key sectors of the economy remain in the doldrums, and state and local governments are continuing to cut services and eliminate jobs.

Given all this, the Romney campaign has to be wondering why their messaging hasn’t worked on key constituencies. Latinos support President Obama by a 32 percent margin. Romney’s numbers among women aren’t great either. Even his cheerleaders at Fox News have him trailing among the fairer sex by six points.

So why exactly haven’t Romney’s attempts at expanding the big tent of the Republican Party succeeded at bringing in historically Democratic constituencies?

Maybe it's because other members of the Republican rank and file keep sending the message that these groups aren’t welcome in the GOP.

On Tuesday at the Republican National Convention (RNC), a weeklong event designed to unite the different factions of the party, Republican rank and file members sent strong signals that are sure to turn away minority and female voters.

When Puerto-Rican delegate Zoraida Fonalleda took the stage to announce her territory’s support for Romney, she was shouted down by delegates in the audience with chants of “USA! USA!”. A puzzling (not to mention concerning) development, considering Fonalleda was there to support the same cause as her hecklers and that she hails from Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory.

Just as troubling were the actions of a Republican delegate on that same day, who threw popcorn at an African American camerawoman as he shouted “this is how we feed animals.”

I’ve already written extensively about the comments of Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin who last week displayed a shocking degree of ignorance about the female body and insensitivity towards rape victims when he claimed, “women rarely get pregnant from rape.”

Romney should be applauded for trying to reach out to voters beyond the traditional Republican base. There are large segments of the population whose votes have traditionally been taken for granted by both major parties, and they deserve to be spoken to in a way that is neither condescending nor exclusionary. Polls consistently show that the most important issues to African Americans, Latinos, women and other targeted groups are the ones that are important to all voters: namely, the economy.

But incidents like the ones described above are going to make it very difficult to convince members of traditionally underrepresented groups that Republicans can offer them a better future. There is probably a reason why Romney trails Obama 94 to zero among African Americans, and something tells me it's not because Obama is black.


Reach Contributor Christian Patterson here; follow him here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.