SIMMONS: To broaden GOP’s base, Rand Paul heading to Howard University

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Sen. Rand Paul is scheduled to visit Howard University on Wednesday to discuss issues important to American citizens and noncitizens alike, including civil liberties, mandatory minimum sentencing laws and education, and because the Kentucky Republican will be making inroads at a historically black school, he’s expected to throw in a lesson on the history of the Republican Party and blacks.

At once testing the waters for a 2016 presidential bid and strategically jump-starting his party’s Growth and Opportunity Project, Mr. Paul is proving himself to be ahead of the rebranding pack by engaging black voters with a message fashioned specifically for them, something black Republicans in the District are urging the party’s chief cook and bottle-washer to do, too.

In a letter dated April 4 and addressed to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, D.C. GOP treasurer W. Ronald Evans pointed out why the message should be tailored, saying that while black voters overwhelming supported the re-election of President Obama in 2012, “even a slight GOP inroad among Blacks might swing a state or two in close 2014 elections and the 2016 presidential contest.”

Mr. Evans‘ seven-page letter, which Mr. Priebus is expected to receive Monday, also said the “bottom-line” to making inroads with blacks is “to understand that the concerns of African American voters are chiefly economic” and that their values “are Republican values.”

While the intent of the letter from Mr. Evans, a businessman, faithful Christian and community activist, is to boost Republican voter rolls, increase grass-roots support and gin up money from the RNC to pull off his marketing proposal, the real bottom line is evident: If the Republican Party truly wants to walk the road map Mr. Priebus laid out in a widely covered March 18 event at the National Press Club, then he should take Mr. Evans‘ letter to heart.

Conceding no single fault line led to the defeats in 2012, Mr. Priebus talked the talk by laying out a 10-point plan that specifically mentioned not only black voters, but Hispanics and Asians as well.

He proposed hiring communications staff to promote Republican minority leaders, bolstering “our messaging efforts in publications that appeal to ethnic minority groups” and pumping up the Republican volume on “pop culture news outlets.” He also said the party would “develop an aggressive marketing campaign to expand our footprint on college campuses, with an especially strong focus on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In addition, create an ongoing dialogue with campus leaders.”

“The future of all 50 state parties and territorial parties will be their top priority,” Mr. Priebus said.

Well, begging his pardon, but there are more than 88,000 registered independents and 32,000 Republicans in the nation’s capital, including Mr. Evans, trying to keep hope alive, which means they, too, deserve attention from the RNC.

That is why Mr. Paul, who already has embraced Hispanic groups to gauge the temperature of the water, is ahead of the pack.

He is heading to Howard, a historically black school with a large international student body, faculty and workforce, and many of them not only live in the District, Maryland or Virginia, but also vote.

Sure, the 2013 graduating class and its parents are going to hang on every word former President Bill Clinton utters when he gives the commencement address next month.

But Mr. Paul, having already given indigestion to some conservatives and Republicans for supporting a pathway to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrants, is swinging wide the door to growth and opportunity.

Republicans from coast to coast should follow the leader.

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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