RNC Showcases GOP's Increasingly Multicultural Face

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Some liberals call Republicans a party of white people. But this year's GOP convention suggests that's not the case.

A wide variety of people from different backgrounds populated the party's meeting in Tampa, Fla.

Nevertheless, the party is still struggling to mend the rift with groups like Hispanics, a desperately desired voting bloc put off by harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric from some Republicans.

"The rhetoric around immigration reform has caused an incredible amount of angst," Sam Rodriguez, president of The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said. "So you have the Hispanic faith community say, 'Do we really want to vote for a party that seems, acts, walks and talks like they don't want us?'"

At least nine out of 10 Black Americans have voted Democrat in recent decades.

Consequently, Florida Republican Chelsi Henry, this convention's youngest female delegate, said her stance has led to some ridicule.

"During my first year of law school, for a period, I was known as 'the black Republican,' she said. "Literally people would walk passed me and say, 'Hey, Black Republican.' But I didn't really take any offense."

"Anytime I encounter people who believe a little bit different than me, I look at it as an educational moment," she explained.

Homosexuals face a powerful bloc of social conservatives in the GOP, who stand steadfast against gay marriage. Many such opponents are represented by the National Organization for Marriage, which cheered defeats of gay issues in last week's wrangles over the GOP platform.

"There was a lot of talk from folks like the Log Cabin Republicans that they were going to water down the platform on marriage. That was totally unsuccessful," NOM President Brian Brown said.

Prominent gay Republican Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud, braved a rain storm to suggest a ceasefire over these social issues.

"We all should be focused on jobs and the economy because that's what this election is going to be decided on, and anything else distracts from that," LaSalvia said.

GOProud is so accepted by Republicans, its big party Homocon was one of the hottest tickets among those at the convention.

LaSalvia insisted there's much common ground between GOP heterosexuals and gays.

"Gay people are no different from anyone else in this country with all the issues that affect every America: jobs, the economy, how we're going to put gas in our tanks," he said.

Then there's the Tea Party, the outsiders who say their beliefs outweigh support of any party that won't cut and slash government.

"We've got to cut a lot of spending, unnecessary spending," the Wetumpka, Ala., Tea Party's Woody Woodward said. "It's just unbelievable when you start looking at what we're spending money on."

Another Wetumpka member, Fred Solomon, agreed.

"It's too big. It's supposed to be limited government. It is unlimited, out-of-control government," he said.

"I have a big problem with big government and a bigger problem with the debt we have," Woodward said.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.