The highly anticipated speech of last night was Paul Ryan's, and Condoleezza Rice brought the house down with a nod to civil rights, but the speaker who caught my attention was the governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez.
Her speech was heavily dotted with her personal story, from her childhood in a border town to the moment when she realized she was a Republican (Martinez switched parties in 1995). She described the common occurrence of little girls coming up to her in malls and looking at her in awe, finally asking timidly, "Are you Susana?" If she had some policy stuff in there, I certainly don't remember it.
As I watched her speech and recalled what I knew about her positions, I began to imagine a Romney-Martinez ticket. (Granted, this is a far-fetched fantasy; Martinez made it crystal clear this spring she had no interest in running.) It would be formidable, and pretty damn different from the one with Paul Ryan. Demographically speaking, she'd help with Romney's vulnerabilities: women and Latinos. She's softer on immigration than Romney, a distinction crucial to winning Latino votes. In an interview in May, Martinez took aim at Romney's concept of "self-deportation," saying that "Republicans want to be tough and say, 'Illegals, you're gone'" but that "the answer is a lot more complex than that." She's also been critical of Paul Ryan's radical budget, saying she disagrees with parts of it.
Don't get me wrong, Susana Martinez is a pretty hard-line conservative, especially when it comes to social issues. She's vehemently anti-gay, anti-abortion, and extremely fiscally conservative, even if she's not on the same kind of crusade as Ryan. Frankly, there's nothing the GOP establishment loves more than a "token" minority or female conservative who (mostly) upholds the status quo.
The GOP knows they need to diversify if they're going to survive, but despite their speaker lineup—which has featured an array of non-white dude conservatives—they're ultimately playing it safe with two strapping Anglo guys and their blond wives. They won't be able to afford such a pale, male ticket for long.