The Race To The Top
Here's a statistic to pore over this Thanksgiving weekend: In 2011, there will be more Republican minorities holding governorships, Senate seats and representing majority-white House districts than Democrats.
There are only 18 elected officials who fit that category -- 10 Republican, eight Democratic. Republicans got a major diversity boost from the midterms, seeing their ranks of minorities expand from one (Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal) to nine, with the elections of Govs.-elect Susana Martinez (R-N.M.), Nikki Haley (R-S.C.), Brian Sandoval (R-Nev.), Sen.-elect Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Reps.-elect Jaime Herrera (R-Wash.), Bill Flores (R-Texas), Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), Allen West (R-Fla.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.).
Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.) heads the Democratic list of minority elected officials winning white voters, along with Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) -- and Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Andre Carson (D-Ind.) and David Wu (D-Ore.).
Overall, the clear majority of minorities in Congress are Democrats. But the numbers above reflect an inconvenient reality that, even with their much more diverse caucus, Democrats face similar challenges as Republicans in recruiting, nominating and electing minority candidates to statewide office and in suburban and rural districts that are majority-white. The vast majority of Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus members hail from urban districts where it doesn't require a crossover vote to win, or represent gerrymandered seats designed to elect a minority member of Congress. They are markedly more liberal than the average Democrat, no less the average voter, making it more difficult for them to successfully mount a statewide campaign.
Of course, the flip side for Republicans is that any time a non-white candidate wins a statewide election, their names immediately vault into contention for national office or leadership. Rubio is already being listed as a running mate contender for the next presidential election -- with several pundits even listing him as a dark-horse candidate for president in 2012. At a recent panel I moderated, Republican Governors Association political field director Phil Cox told me that all three of the minority governors-elect would be contenders to be on a national ticket in 2012 -- even though they would only be in office for less than two years. And Scott already snagged a plum post in the new Congress, serving as one of two freshman liaisons to Republican party leadership.