In the latest example of a high-profile Republican resigning from public office, Senator Mel Martinez from Florida has announced he will step down some 17 months before the end of his term.
Martinez was quoted as saying he was not under pressure to step down and hinted he was planning to pursue a career in the private sector.
"[A]fter nearly 12 years of public service … it is time to return to Florida and my family," he said, quoted by CNN.
The move has spurred speculation about a replacement as Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who will make that decision, had already suggested he was interested in running for Martinez’s seat in 2010.
However, commentators have also pointed to the difficulties the resignation may cause to the GOP’s diversity model, as Martinez was the only Hispanic Republican in the Senate and the party is increasingly perceived by some as a bulwark of "angry white men."
A University of South Florida political scientist Dr. Susan McManus says "the Republicans need other faces," suggesting women and Latinos are abandoning the party.
Last week Martinez was only one of nine Republicans who cast their vote in favor of confirming Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice in a partisan vote many believe may further erode GOP support among Latinos.