The presumptive 2024 Republican presidential field is set to be one of the most diverse in the party’s history, a development that comes as the GOP tries to expand its appeal beyond its largely white base.
While former President Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) are seen as the clear front-runners, the primary has attracted one of the GOP’s most diverse fields ever. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, both of whom are Indian American, as well as conservative radio show host Larry Elder, who’s Black, are all running for the Republican nomination. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), one of the highest-profile Black Republicans in Washington, is widely expected to join them later this month.
The growing field comes as the GOP has made some strides in broadening its appeal to minority voters and as some members of the party say presidential candidates should embrace their identities in the primary rather than gloss over them.
Republicans “love the idea of … being able to push back on Democrats, and to frankly make Democrats look hypocritical for saying they’re the only ones who kind of represent diversity,” said Mindy Finn, who was a presidential running mate to independent Evan McMullin in 2016.
“I think Republicans take a lot of pride in being able to do that, and having a diverse field allows them to do that,” Finn added.
Their candidacies come amid discussions within the Republican Party, which has typically been characterized by critics as a party dominated by older white men, about how diverse GOP candidates should address their identities.
“In terms of when people talk about ‘who are you,’ Tim Scott, and he talks about his upbringing and his parents and what they taught him and the community that he was raised in, which was a Black community, is that shameful? Should he not share those experiences?” said Camilla Moore, chairwoman of the Georgia Black Republican Council.
“I mean, the same thing for Nikki Haley. The same thing for [Elder], the same thing for anyone that has a historical ethnic background — they should be proud to talk about that. That’s not what they’re running on, but that is a part of who they are,” she added.
The discussions also come as minority voters see their political capital grow in elections. Asian Americans, for example, one of the fastest-growing groups of eligible voters in the United States, saw their turnout rates jump from 49.3 percent in 2014 to 59.5 percent in 2020, according to AAPIData, indicating a key voting bloc that both parties will increasingly need to pay attention to.
A study conducted in 2020 found about 60 percent of Indian Americans said they would be open to voting for an Indian American candidate “regardless of their party affiliation.”
Now, some Republican lawmakers are calling for the 2024 ticket to reflect this new political reality.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) told The Hill on NewsNation she “wants to see some diversity” on the ticket. “I’d love to see a woman on the ticket. For example, I’m a girl mom and raising a daughter and a son. And I want to see more younger leadership, either way, on this ticket headed into 2024.”
This isn’t the first time the Republican presidential field has seen women or candidates of color vying to be the nation’s top executive. The late Sen. Margaret Chase Smith (R-Maine) ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 1964 — the first major female candidate to run for the presidency on either the Republican or Democratic side.
Former Rep. Michele Bachmann (D-Minn.) ran for president during the 2012 cycle, while former HP CEO Carly Fiorina ran in 2016. Former diplomat Alan Keyes ran for the GOP nomination several times in addition to former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson in 2016. Meanwhile, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), both of whom are Latino, ran in 2016.
One aspect of the 2024 Republican presidential primary field that makes it so notable is the extent to which it offers a contrast to the Democratic side, where President Biden runs for a second term. If the president is elected again, he’ll leave office at 86 years old.
It also comes after House Republicans added more diverse voices to its mix last year. Black, Latino and female elected officials joined the ranks in January, part of an effort to make the caucus the most racially and ethnically diverse in the GOP’s history.
At the same time, the makeup of the Senate Republican caucus is largely male and white. And while the House GOP has seen growing diversity in its ranks, its leadership, too, is mostly all white and male except for House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).
One challenge the GOP has had to grapple with is its discomfort over identity politics. Many Republicans have largely bristled at the idea of focusing on cultural backgrounds, instead saying the emphasis should be on candidate qualifications and solutions, not identity.
“We’re not, on this campaign, very big on identity politics,” said Tricia McLaughlin, senior adviser to Ramaswamy. “The important piece of it is the content of someone’s ideas, and Vivek’s kind of big question is, do we want a national divorce or do we want a national revival?”
One source advising a presidential campaign who requested anonymity to speak candidly suggested shared values and personal stories are more important for voters than the gender or cultural makeup of a candidate.
“That is, I think, where the different folks who are throwing their hat in the ring here will find success is if those stories, if those backgrounds, if their diversity is something that is ultimately used and talked about in a way that relates with Americans across backgrounds,” the source added.
Pointing to Indian Americans in particular, Hajar Yazdiha, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Southern California, said the group often distances itself from its race because of its precarious position in American society.
“The model minority myth is often rolled out to draw comparisons between Asian Americans and other racialized groups, particularly Black Americans, to argue that by playing the rules and putting in the hard work, anyone can overcome discrimination and pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” Yazdiha adds.
Some Republicans argue that talking about identity can be unhelpful for candidates. While GOP strategist Rina Shah suggested candidates shouldn’t shy away from discussing their backgrounds, she said conversations around identity can also make it harder for individuals to focus on policy positions and other issues.
“I think these identity conversations actually are a disservice to the American electorate because they force a candidate to have to continually rely on their identity to make themselves sound electable to the electorate,” Shah said.
“Whereas, you know, somebody that doesn’t have to wear their identity so openly and talk about it all the time, about being a new American or being the kid of new Americans — they’re almost given this advantage, they can go straight to the issues.”
But others argue it can help candidates win support by drawing parallels between their upbringing and the growing diversity of their voting base.
“I think it’s who you are — you embrace it,” Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R-Ariz.) told The Hill in an interview last week.
Shortly before Ciscomani launched his campaign to run for Arizona’s 6th Congressional District, he said his father pulled him aside, reflecting on his family’s journey emigrating from Mexico and becoming U.S. citizens.
“I can tell you that my perspective and the lens from which I was looking at everything came, a lot of it, from what was shaped by that conversation with my dad, and that could only come from someone that had to fight for their immigration and their citizenship,” he added.