“I hope the GOP not only looks at diversity in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability all those factors that make us strong as a country,” she said, “but [that they] also look at the policies that these individuals reflect because a Herman Cain in the White House certainly would not reflect the policies and the values of the majority of Americans.”

As Huffmon said, “Substantive representation” — adopting policies and platform planks that appeal to the policy preferences of the group — comes slower, if at all.

“Even though, contrary to some narratives, vote shares for Obama among unmarried women, African-Americans and young adults actually went down, the fact is that Republicans have a serious branding problem with these groups,” said Huffmon. “The party’s problem with Hispanics has become even deeper and more pronounced.”

Huffmon, whose areas of research include Southern politics, electoral politics, political parties and campaigns and elections, said, “Whether real or perceived, lots of folks in these groups don’t really feel like the Republican Party wants to hear what they have to say.” He said that the problem, particularly among Hispanics, is not only about policy differences. “I think it has just as much to do with the fact many feel the party looks at them as suspect until they ‘prove’ their citizenship and/or ‘American-ness.’”

The fact that Romney is the GOP’s past could be seen in the swift repudiation of his “gifts” comments by the party’s “rising stars”– Bobby Jindal, the Indian-American governor of Louisiana and Susana Martinez, Mexican-American governor of New Mexico. These Republican elected officials, including Rubio, who oozed charisma while campaigning for Romney, showcase diversity in the party’s ranks and are next in line for national leadership positions and perhaps a place on the presidential ticket.

While some in the GOP struggle with the path Republicans should take, these former Romney supporters and surrogates no doubt read this year’s election results and see a bright political future, maybe as soon as 2016.

Follow Mary on Twitter @mcurtisnc3