TAMPA, Fla. — The cheers for the incredibly diverse lineup on stage at the Republican National Convention here were very real. Republicans are extremely proud of faces like Condoleezza Rice and Gov. Susana Martinez (R-NM), who wowed the crowd here Wednesday.
But if the goal of the convention is to show an inclusive and open Republican Party, the confab in Tampa has offered significant evidence to support the claims of those who say the GOP doesn’t truly embrace Americans who look like Rice and Martinez.
Underscoring the convention coverage since the first real day of speeches began has been the nasty incident in which attendees taunted a black CNN camerawoman by throwing peanuts and saying, “This is how we feed the animals.” Though the convention organizers strongly condemned the incident, the victim of the taunts, Patricia Carroll said that behavior is a sign that the GOP is not exactly comfortable with African-Americans.
“You come to places like this, you can count the black people on your hand,” Carroll told the Maynard Institute. “They see us doing things they don’t think I should do.”
“There are not that many black women there,” she said of the hall in Tampa. On stage Rice and Utah congressional candidate Mia Love were greeted with enthusiastic cheers, but for Carroll the message of the convention is still one of exclusion.
Women are another central focus of the agenda in Tampa. Ann Romney aimed her Tuesday speech directly at women, attempting to shore up an electorate that’s not exactly enthused by her husband according to polls. Ann Romney was one of many high-profile women who took the stage in Tampa to wild applause and affection from delegates.
But on Wednesday, Mike Huckabee may have undone some of that outreach when he attacked DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in his speech in a way Democrats suggested was sexist.
“Tampa has been such a wonderful and hospitable city to us,” Huckabee joked. “The only hitch in an otherwise perfect week was the awful noise coming from the hotel room next door to mine. Turns out it was just Debbie Wasserman Schultz practicing her speech for the DNC in Charlotte next week. Bless her heart.”
Wasserman Schultz said Thursday morning that the remark illustrates that Huckabee “has a problem with a strong woman’s voice.”
Then there’s the Hispanic voters. Here in Florida, the state where Jeb Bush was governor and Marco Rubio (R) is a senator, there’s been a lot of talk about the current GOP’s failure to boost support among Hispanic voters. Bush has long been a critic of his party on outreach to Hispanics and immigration policy. Rubio has been too, and he’s introducing Mitt Romney Thursday night. More than one speaker (like Martinez) has broken into Spanish on the convention stage, even as the party adopted a platform with a plank backed by Kris Kobach calling for self-deportation of illegal immigrants already in the country and a ban on federal funding for colleges that offer tuition discounts to illegal immigrants.
The Romney campaign hopes Ann Romney can quell these remaining concerns, and it dispatched her to speak to a Hispanic audience Wednesday. While the party debated how to appeal to more Hispanics, Ann Romney told an audience here that the real problem lies with Hispanic voters, not with the GOP.
“It really is a message that would resonate well if they could just get past some of their biases that have been there from the Democratic machines that have made us look like we don’t care about this community,” Romney told the Latino Coalition. “And that is not true. We very much care about you and your families and the opportunities that are there for you and your families.”
According to NBC, Romney also ran afoul of her audience when she said of the Puerto Rican delegation, “You people know how to party.”
“I did not think it was demeaning, but I did think it was a poor choice of words, and she should probably lose that from her vocabulary,” one attendee told NBC.