Correction: The executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials is Arturo Vargas. An earlier version of this story had the incorrect name.
From statehouses to Congress to the 2008 primary smackdown between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Democrats can claim a more diverse party than Republicans. But it’s the GOP that has the top talent poised to compete on the national stage – a major plus as Mitt Romney gets serious about finding a running mate.
That’s the good news. The bad: Most of the hot prospects are newcomers to the national political scene, and if it’s one thing the GOP doesn’t want, it’s Sarah Palin redux with another untested novice.
Four of the six female governors in the country are Republicans and two of them – Nikki Haley from South Carolina and Susana Martinez from New Mexico – have been mentioned as vice presidential fodder. But both took office less than two years ago and have said they’re not interested. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire has campaigned a number of times with Romney, but she too has been in office for less than two years. The same is true of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Sen. Marco Rubioof Florida, who are Hispanic.
More-experienced hands include Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is Indian-American, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice brings an extra x chromosome and minority status to the ticket, but also baggage such as her association with former president George W. Bush and the Iraq war.
“It’s clear the Republicans have a much broader bench,” Democratic strategist Joe Trippi said. “I also think that to some extent it’s a little bit more of a troubled bench or untested bench.”
Trippi said his party’s political fortunes are partly to blame for a diversity deficit in positions that usually lead to national prominence. “We took a massive shellacking in 2010 and we don’t hold very many governorships at all,” he said. In the Senate, another launch pad for people with national ambitions, 12 of 17 women are Democrats. But Trippi said few have expressed an interest in running for higher office as many are near the end of their careers.