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Dueling Conventions Show Contrast on Race and Diversity

“There were more Trumps who spoke than Hispanics,” Stuart Stevens, who served as Mitt Romney's chief strategist, said of the GOP lineup.
Jason Collins, Jarron Collins
Mark J. Terrill / AP

After Mitt Romney’s loss in the 2012 presidential election, the Republican Party stressed in its so-called autopsy report that it needed to do a better job appealing to minority voters if it wanted to win national elections in the future. But comparing the diversity of the Democratic National Convention to last week's largely white GOP convention shows there is still a gap between the parties.

The contrast in speakers was stark. Of the approximately 50 people who delivered remarks in Philadelphia at the Democratic convention on the first night, roughly half were minorities. The lineup included sitting legislators like New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison and Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings. There were athletes, like former pro basketball players Jason and Jarron Collins, DREAMers like 26-year-old Astrid Silva, and Karla and Francisca Ortiz—the mother and daughter who could be separated by deportation. And of course, first lady Michelle Obama.

Related: Black Lives Matter Mothers to Address Convention Tuesday

Meanwhile, the GOP had roughly the same amount of speakers on day one, but just over half a dozen were minorities. There was Jason Beardsley, adviser for Concerned Veterans for America; soap star/actor Antonio Sabato Jr.; and GOP Senate candidate Darryl Glenn.

Noticeably, some of biggest minority stars in the party –- like New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Rep. Mia Love of Utah, Sen. Tim Scott and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley -– did not take the stage at all during the whole week.

Stuart Stevens, who served as a chief strategist from Romney’s presidential campaign, took notice. “It’s 8:10 on opening night and more Latinos have spoken at DNC than four nights of RNC,” the GOPer tweeted on Monday.

“There were more Trumps who spoke than Hispanics,” the Republican told NBC News on Tuesday, in a biting assessment of the RNC. “The odds are that the Trumps are going to vote for him anyways. He needs Hispanics…It’s an odd way to win an election. You have to have a broader appeal than people like yourself.”

Bruce LeVell, executive director of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, brushed off the criticism. “I’d rather have a person with a multicultural heart and not worrying about how many black people are in this room…someone with an American heart standing for equality for all, not just making sure we have some type of quota,” he said, pointing to speakers like Sajid Tarar, founder of American Muslims for Trump, who gave the party convention’s closing prayer, or New Mexico delegate and Korean-American Lisa Shin.

But the lack of diversity in the GOP’s speaker lineup is not necessarily shocking, said Emory University political scientist Andra Gillespie. “The Republican party is overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly minorities vote Democratic. It’s not surprising that the party has a deeper bench of minority speakers to draw from.”

Related: Rough Start Overshadows Latino Showcase at Democratic Convention

This year’s electorate will be the country’s most racially diverse ever, Pew reports. One in three eligible voters on Election Day -– 31 percent -- will be Hispanic, black, Asian or another racial or ethnic minority. That’s up from 29 percent in 2012.

Jeanne Zaino, a professor of political science at Iona College and of political campaign management at New York University, said the racial differences between the two parties’ speakership lineups showed a “huge contrast.” She added, “It’s not the fact that the people only looked different, it results in very different messages” like on immigration and law and order. Take, for example, 11-year-old Karla Ortiz, a daughter of undocumented immigrants, or Astrid Silva, an undocumented immigrant and activist.

Or the mothers of black men and women killed by police violence who will speak on Tuesday, including Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; Lezley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown; and Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin.

Some observers say Trump -- and his fiery rhetoric targeting Latinos, Muslims and any number of other minorities -- is to blame.

“When the nominee is Donald Trump and he’s a polarizing figure and minority Republicans are taking issue, it makes it harder to find speakers,” said Gillespie.