LOOKING FOR A ‘GREAT WHITE HOPE’…. Let’s call this another setback for the Republican Party’s outreach to minority communities.

U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins offered encouragement to conservatives at a town hall forum that the Republican Party would embrace a “great white hope” capable of thwarting the political agenda endorsed by Democrats who control Congress and President Barack Obama.

Jenkins, a Topeka Republican in her first term in Congress, shared thoughts about the GOP’s political future during an Aug. 19 forum at Fisher Community Center in the northeast Kansas community of Hiawatha.

At the event, an attendee asked Jenkins about whether the Republican Party might put together a policy blueprint, along the lines of the Contract with America. “Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope,” Jenkins responded. “I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington.” She proceeded to single out Reps. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). All three are white, as is Jenkins.

The Topeka Capital-Journal noted the historical context: “The phrase ‘great white hope’ is frequently tied to racist attitudes permeating the United States when heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson fought in the early 1900s. Reaction to the first black man to reign as champion was intense enough to build support for a campaign to find a white fighter capable of reclaiming the title from Johnson.”

Hmm, I wonder why that might be relevant right now.

A spokesperson for the freshman GOP Kansan said “great white hope” was not intended to express a preference for any “race, creed or any background.” A statement from the lawmaker’s office said Jenkins “apologizes for her choice of words.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.