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McConnell Criticizes GOP for Lack of Diversity

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Friday criticized his party’s inability to field diverse, viable candidates over the past two election cycles, and said he and other GOP leaders are putting a new premium on candidate recruitment for 2010.

McConnell also downplayed the notion that the Republican message has become too narrow in recent years to attract independents and Democrats.

“We don’t think it’s a flawed message so much as we haven’t had the people that could get some of these races into the win column,— McConnell said during a breakfast with reporters sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

McConnell said he is disappointed with the lack of racial and gender diversity in his Conference, and he said Republicans have done a poor job of attracting quality female and Hispanic Senate candidates.

“I’m not happy with the fact that our only Hispanic member of the Conference is retiring, and I don’t think we have enough female Senators,— McConnell said.

Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) has decided against seeking re-election in 2010, and as it stands now, the Senate GOP claims just four female lawmakers in its ranks.

McConnell argued that a number of factors have led to the lack of diverse GOP Senate challengers over the past four years: poor recruitment, a shallow bench of GOP contenders in many states and a general malaise about the Republican Party brought on by eight years of the Bush administration.

“It was really hard,— McConnell said. “The president was wildly unpopular and people were in a sour mood.—

But the top Senate Republican said that he, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) and other GOP leaders have renewed their emphasis on identifying better candidates. Although he declined to mention any names, McConnell said the early work he and Cornyn have done for 2010 gives him reason for optimism. “I’m hopeful for this cycle,— McConnell said.

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