Still, a deep bench in a dozen years is no help to Romney in his quest this year. While there’s no guarantee that putting a woman or minority on the ticket will win votes, a woman could help him close a huge gender gap. “The image of the VP tends to merge with the image of the president so voters don’t particularly vote a separate image. That being said, however, one of the issues that Romney has is he really needs to have women take a second look at him because there are pretty high negatives about him,” said pollster Celinda Lake, who studies messaging to women voters. “One way to accomplish that might be to pick a woman VP.”
Martinez agreed that picking a woman or Latino politician for the ticket could excite the party and help Romney with those demographics without sacrificing quality. Like women, Latino voters lean Democratic but can be convinced to cross over. Arturo Vargas, the executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, cited two examples: Republican Orlando Sanchez, a Cuban American, ran for mayor in the Democratic-leaning city of Houston and won because of the pride in his heritage that he displayed. In the California governor’s race after Gray Davis was recalled in 2003, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger won the Latino vote over Cruz Bustamante, a Democrat.
In 15 or 20 years, the Democrats may regain their edge as women and minorities in state legislatures rise to national office. Right now, women hold 23.7 percent of state legislature seats, and 60 percent of them are Democrats. Among Latinos, the largest minority population in the U.S., that figure is even more striking: Vargas estimated that 85 to 90 percent of Latino officials in local government are Democrats.
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