Sure, the 113th Congress is one of the most diverse ever -- the record number of female senators, an influx of openly-gay lawmakers, and a House Democratic Caucus that is filled with up-and-coming minority members representing increasingly diverse districts.
But amid all the celebration, there's still this inconvenient truth: The Senate is an almost all-white body.
At a time when more than one-third of Americans are nonwhite, just five senators are racial minorities. Digging deeper, there are now more Republican minorities in the Senate (South Carolina's Tim Scott, Florida's Marco Rubio, and Texas's Ted Cruz) than Democrats (New Jersey's Robert Menendez and Hawaii's Mazie Hirono). The Democratic coalition relies heavily on overwhelming minority voters' support, but it doesn't have many leading, prominent nonwhite messengers -- beyond President Obama -- to promote the party's message.
All of this makes the looming battle for New Jersey's Senate seat a fascinating dilemma for the Democratic Party. Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a rising African-American star, has declared his intention to run for the Senate, even though 88-year-old Sen. Frank Lautenberg hasn't announced his future political plans "“ and sounds decidedly uninterested in stepping aside voluntarily. Adding another twist to the equation, Rep. Frank Pallone, long seen as a prospective statewide candidate, is seriously considering running if Lautenberg retires, Roll Call reported.