- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 22, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele said yesterday that the Republican Party and the Bush administration are successfully reaching out to black voters around the country and chided Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry.

Mr. Steele said during a conference call with black journalists that he could no longer remain silent as the Kerry campaign insinuates that President Bush wants to suppress the black vote.

“I am offended,” said Mr. Steele, a black Republican. “I consider such comments to be borderline ignorant.”

Mr. Steele, a rising star in the Republican party with a growing national profile, has spoken in Detroit, Miami, Milwaukee and Huntington, W.Va., as part of the president’s African-American Outreach and Economic Empowerment tours.

Mr. Steele said he and others on the tour are reaching out to blacks, though they know “full well that the vast majority of them will not vote for my candidate.”

He also touted a recent Survey USA poll conducted for WMAR-TV in Baltimore that has Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry each with 48 percent of the Maryland vote for the Nov. 2 election.

“People are beginning to look beyond the rhetoric,” Mr. Steele said. “This president’s policy is beginning to have a positive impact.”

State Republican Party Chairman John M. Kane agreed.

“Consistently, over the past three weeks, President Bush has proven to be cutting into John Kerry’s base,” he said. “These facts simply cannot be muffled anymore.”

Mr. Kane said the poll is significant because the state traditionally has voted 2-to-1 Democrat, or at least until 2002, when Marylanders elected Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. as the state’s first Republican governor in more than 30 years.

“While much can be said about our growing Republican base here in Maryland at this point, and our state party’s mounting relevancy, even more can be said about our nation’s obvious faith in President Bush’s leadership,” Mr. Kane said. “A competitive race for President Bush in a Democratic-leaning state like Maryland means real and massive support is swelling for the president nationwide. The truth of the matter is George W. Bush’s America is thriving.”

Survey USA is a New York-based firm. The poll is based on a telephone survey of 598 likely voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percent. Two percent of those polled were undecided and 2 percent answered “other,” according to Survey USA.

Despite the polls, a District-based journalist participating in the conference call yesterday wanted Mr. Bush to do more to assure blacks in Florida that their votes would be counted.

“The president has called for a closer observance. Beyond that, I don’t know what he can do,” Mr. Steele responded.

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