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Tea Party median age, lack of diversity puts GOP at disadvantage?

August 30, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Tea Party's passion has driven conservatives to the polls. What began as a grass-roots movement in 2009 has become a force. With Tea Party support, some candidates have had resounding victories. That power has pushed the Republican Party further to the right.

Tea Party members oppose abortion, demand lower taxes and support smaller government and tougher immigration laws. To many on the outside, the Tea Party can appear as exclusionary. The Tea Party's numbers are largely male and white, with weak support from women and minorities.

That lack of diversity puts the entire Republican Party at risk.

"A large part of the Tea Party's mantra is exclusion. They're trying to quickly say who are Americans and who aren't; who are true believers and who aren't; who are moral people and who's not," said UCLA Dean of Public Policy Frank Gilliam. "And that is a problem."

Gilliam says this will be a crucial election for the Tea Party's existence and its influence on the Republican platform.

"If they lose again, it's going to really force them to do some soul-searching," said Gilliam. "Can they compete at the presidential level when they're being pulled to the right by this Tea Party group? And over time will those folks -- the older, the whiter -- start to fade off the scene?"

The Tea Party's hard-line stance on immigration is a key weakness, said ABC News political commentator Cokie Roberts.

"That's it's biggest problem," said Roberts. "Demographics are working against the Republican Party. You cannot be a majority party of white men. There just aren't enough of them to go around."

Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, a Tea Party favorite and a white male, does have some other advantages for the Republicans. He's young and can appeal to young voters.

And there are young people coming into the Republican fold. Briana Bilbray, 25, is the youngest California delegate.

"I'm just trying to lead by example," said Bilbray. "A lot of my friends think that if you're young, you need to be either disengaged or liberal. And I'm trying to tell them, what the government's doing, it's going to affect my generation. We're the ones that are going to have to pay for this."

Yorba Linda resident Caleb Krueger is only 12. "My favorite thing about politics is the GOP debates, when someone would ask a really tough question to someone else, and then that person would dodge the question."

Unemployment among people in their 20s is currently more than 20 percent. In 2008, President Obama had a huge following among young people. With unemployment so high, it's possible that Mitt Romney could get some of the youth vote, if they decide to go to the polls, a big question mark.

Look for ongoing reports from David Ono at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. Eyewitness News will also be at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., in September.


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