- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 9, 2002

Republicans, despite hopes that they would make progress with President Bush at the helm, can't seem to get the hang of outreach to Hispanic, Asian and black voters.
"The current Republican idea for broadening the base of the party has been to bring a bunch of rich white guys in to run the party," said Michael Schroeder, former chairman of the California Republican Party. "Meanwhile, the Democrats have full-time staff people tasked with making sure their message is taken into all the ethnic communities in California."
Other Republican leaders acknowledge that their party's ethnic-outreach efforts have met with only moderate successes among Hispanics nationally and have been a flop with Asians and blacks.
"It's time that Karl Rove understood that it takes more than a Mariachi band and a TV show in Spanish," said K.B. Forbes, a veteran Republican campaign operative and current executive director of a nonprofit group that works in Hispanic communities. Mr. Rove is Mr. Bush's chief political strategist.
When President Bush appeared at a California fund-raiser for gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon in Santa Clara last week, few Asians, fewer Hispanics and even fewer blacks could be seen at the event. Yet it took place in the San Francisco Bay area, which has a large Asian population.
At a national party meeting a few weeks earlier, Shannon Reeves, the conservative black leader of the Oakland National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who is running for California Republican Party chairman with the blessing of the Bush White House, drew scant attention from some key party officials from other states.
These officials intended no racial slight, they said. They simply found it hard to get excited about California, a state they have all but written off. California hasn't voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988. Democrats control its governorship, legislature and every statewide office except secretary of state.
Also, Republican officials suggest the California party would benefit more from having a Hispanic as chairman of the state party, but no Hispanic is seeking the post.
Mr. Bush's success with Hispanic voters when he was twice elected governor of Texas raised Republicans' hopes that they could regain the momentum they once had with Hispanics nationally.
So when Republicans elected former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III as their national party chairman last year, he told them that successful outreach meant inviting minorities to Republican political and social events. Republicans should also learn how to mix and mingle in minority communities, he said.
Former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot said much the same thing when he succeeded Mr. Gilmore earlier this year. This week, Mr. Racicot upped the ante when he announced a $1 million campaign to air a Republican-produced news magazine twice a month on Spanish-language television stations in selected cities.
While calling it a good first step, some Republican activists are getting impatient with their party's national and state organizations and with Mr. Bush's political team.
"It's time to get the grass-roots foot soldiers involved in communities that are not traditionally Republican," said Mr. Forbes, whose mother became a U.S. citizen after emigrating from Chile in 1958. "It's time to get members of the Young Republican, College Republican and Republican Federated Women clubs into the barrios, helping people translate letters, showing them how to transfer money to relatives back in Latin America or wherever, and with misunderstandings with local police."
Interviews with party officials around the country indicate that Republicans are unable to cite many examples of successful Hispanic recruitment. Some acknowledge they face a cultural divide.
Republicans touted the 2000 election results as success, even though 67 percent of Hispanics voted for Al Gore more than double the 31 percent who picked George W. Bush. And Mr. Bush failed to match the 33 percent Hispanic support that President Reagan got in 1984.
Republican attempts to court black voters have yielded dismal results more than 90 percent of black voters went for Mr. Gore in 2000. And the failure to win over Asian voters, considered a natural constituency for Republicans, is particularly telling, strategists in both parties say.
Although Asians went by a 55-31 percent margin for the elder George Bush in 1992 and by 48-43 percent for Bob Dole over Bill Clinton in 1996, they reversed party allegiance in 2000, voting 54-41 percent for Mr. Gore over Mr. Bush.
Democrats do not hide their glee over Republican ineptitude in courting minority voters.
"Republicans are at their nadir with Asians," Gary South, chief strategist for Democratic Gov. Gray Davis of California, told The Washington Times.
Asians are the second-fastest growing segment of the electorate after Hispanics. Yet, as Mr. South noted, "Democrats now have a 65-35 percent split with [Asian voters], not in registration but in voting behavior. In 1992, they were registered 4-1 Republican. Right now, that constituency is half Democrat and half Republican" in California.
Republicans say their free-market, limited-government philosophy does not allow them to push the welfare-state social policies that Democrats use to gain support with minority constituents. And some Republicans say an ethnic-focused strategy won't work for their party.
"I don't think the Republican Party can succeed by approaching people on the basis of their ethnicity," said California Republican campaign strategist Wayne Johnson. "Our outreach is built on shared values. It's not based on ethnicity and should not be."

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