Democrats Face Shallow Bench for Hispanic Leaders

"If we want people to like us, we have to like them first. And you don't start to like people by insulting them and saying their votes were bought."

-- Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, on "FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”

As President Obama considers how he will remake his administration for a second term he faces some obvious challenges, particularly on how to find new leaders for the Pentagon, CIA and State Department amid an ongoing investigation of those agencies surrounding the attack by Islamist militants on U.S. outposts in Libya on Sept. 11.


Confirmation hearings for those posts threaten to turn into inquests over the attacks and the subsequent pre-election effort to blame the raid on a Internet video.

But there’s also this: As the leader of a party that bases its claim for future political dominance on the support of Hispanic voters, Obama has few options when it comes to showing the Hispanic voters who returned him to the White House that their culture is represented in his administration.

In fact, despite Democratic dominance in the Hispanic vote this year, the Blue Team has only a handful of Hispanic leaders who are national figures.

There are no Democratic Hispanic governors, while the Republicans have two. The Democrats have one Hispanic Senator, Cuban-American Bob Menendez of New Jersey. The Republicans will have two, Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas.

While there are more than a dozen House Democrats of Hispanic heritage, the only Hispanic member of the leadership team is Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, slated to take the No. 4 spot in the House.

Inside Obama’s current cabinet, there are two Hispanic members, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Salazar has had an unhappy tenure and Solis has proven to be a divisive figure. Even if both were to remain in the administration, neither is likely to take a very high profile in the months to come.

To get a sense of how white the Democratic bench has become, consider that not one Hispanic politician gets a mention when discussing the party’s potential crop of 2016 contenders. Joe Biden may be a “homeboy,” but Hispanic he certainly is not.

This dearth of high-profile Hispanic leaders is why Democrats turned to Hispanic mayors of Los Angeles and San Antonio as well as pop culture figures like Eva Longoria to carry the flag for the party during the general election. There just aren’t any household-name Hispanic Democrats on offer.

Democrats have been riding the issue of amnesty for illegal immigrants since 2004 as the way to keep a supermajority of the Hispanic vote, key to Obama’s success in Virginia, Florida, Nevada and Colorado.

Democrats cast themselves as tolerant and welcoming while Republicans -- who spent many months of their primary process goading each other into ever more harsh measures on the subject -- look exclusionary.

But Republicans are starting to sound serious about addressing the issue in a way that lets the party move on from the subject that pits the current Republican base – heartland white voters who fear the erosion of the American culture and the diminution of the rule of law – and the voters the party needs to compete in the future.

Given the social conservatism and entrepreneurial proclivities of many Hispanic voters, especially Mexican Americans, the Republican hope is that by denying Democrats the wedge issue of an amnesty for illegal immigrants, the Red Team can start wooing Hispanics again.

Republicans have been pushing hard to show diversity in their ranks since 2008 and have succeeded. Democrats, meanwhile, have a party leadership that reflects the ethnic coalition of big city blacks and whites that has dominated the party since the New Deal.

Obama has little incentive to cut a deal on illegal immigration right now. It ceases to be useful for Democrats once resolved, and the president is facing the very real possibility of being sworn into a second term amid a double-dip recession spurred by massive automatic tax increases. He has other priorities.

Some personnel moves would be a good way for the president show some love to Hispanic voters, but because of his party’s shallow bench it’s hard to imagine where Obama could find any Latinos for a top job in his cabinet.

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET  at