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After all, if President Obama runs for re-election in 2012, he is likely to be a drag in most of the districts Republicans won last week, since he didn’t carry those areas in 2008. Moreover, the GOP’s gains in numbers of governors and state legislatures means the party can improve its standing through redistricting.
The other side of the coin is that Republicans look more diverse than they did just a week ago.
For the first time in more than a century, two African-American Republicans will serve in the House. Tim Scott was elected in South Carolina and Allen West was elected in Florida. Hispanic Jaime Herrera won in Washington state, while Francisco “Quico” Canseco is a new Member from Texas and Raul Labrador was elected from Idaho.
The governor-elect of New Mexico is Susana Martinez (R), a Hispanic woman. Her lieutenant governor-elect is John Sanchez (R), a Hispanic man. The governor-elect of South Carolina is Nikki Haley (R), an Indian-American woman who joins Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as the GOP’s second Indian-American governor. Rep. Mary Fallin (R) was elected governor in Oklahoma.
Of course, the Republican Party remains overwhelmingly white, both in its officeholders and its voters. The Democratic Party remains much more diverse when it comes to people of color.
But the GOP needed to start somewhere to change its “old white guy” image, and it must become a more diverse-looking party as the makeup of the American population — and the American electorate — changes.
Not all is well for the GOP, of course. While Republicans made small inroads in electing more diverse officeholders, the party remains weak in New England.
Last week, Republicans won just two of the region’s 22 Congressional districts, both of them in New Hampshire. The party holds three of the region’s 12 Senate seats (two in Maine and one in New Hampshire) and only Maine’s governorship, which Republican Paul LePage won with 38 percent of the vote in a multi-candidate race.
Interestingly, Republicans rallied in New York, where they had been reduced to holding only two of the state’s 29 Congressional districts. Last week, they added five seats, and the GOP may well control the New York state Senate.
Last week’s results were stunningly good for the Republicans. But, like the short-lived Democratic gains of 2006 and 2008, 2012 could be very different, and long-term demographic changes in the U.S. electorate still offer great opportunities for the Democrats.