- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2004

Republican leaders, including President Bush, say they are seeking ways to diversify their party, but strategists and a former congressman say the efforts are insufficient in reaching out to minority voters.

Mr. Bush, who drew 9 percent of the black vote in 2000 compared with 90 percent for his Democratic opponent Al Gore, has been working to improve his image in the black and Hispanic communities. He challenged blacks at the National Urban League convention in July on voting for Democrats despite being conservative on issues of taxes, education and homosexual “marriage.”

“The administration has just increased, in regards to its public service, from $1 million to $3 million, its outreach to African-Americans,” said Tara Wall, outreach spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.

She said a bulk of the money has been targeted at the black press and urban radio for informative ads on issues such as predatory lending practices, homeownership and education choice.

And she said the Bush-Cheney campaign also has begun running ads on urban radio.

“So this argument about the administration not wanting to spend money in urban markets is completely false, because this administration has been committed to African-American outreach from appointments on down,” Miss Wall said.

But the party has not caught on, said Richard Nadler, Republican consultant and president of America’s PAC, a Republican-leaning private political group. He said the party continues to miss the mark on when, where and how to reach the black community through ads, if it decides to communicate with them at all.

“I only wish the party would catch up with what President Bush was saying,” Mr. Nadler said.

A study conducted by Access Communications Group comparing the 2000 election with performances in the 2002 mid-term elections showed that Democratic attacks on Republicans in urban radio and television markets have a minimal effect if countered.

Mr. Nadler said the study showed that 69 percent of blacks thought that Democrats would do more to protect the rights of the unborn and 75 percent said Democrats were more likely to lower taxes — both core Republican issues.

In the eight cities where Republicans ran counter ads on urban radio and television stations such as BET, Univision and TeleFutura, the precinct level numbers showed a 15 percent decline minority support for Democrats.

Mr. Nadler said on any given day during morning and evening drive times in cities, it is possible to catch 50 percent of blacks listening to the radio.

Former Republican South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis, who is running for his old 4th District seat, said his party must reach out to blacks and Hispanics or face becoming the permanent minority party in 15 years.

Mr. Inglis began advertising on the urban radio in Greenville during the primary. His district is 23 percent black and less than 5 percent Hispanic, he said.

“I’m sure some people thought that was a crazy thing to do,” Mr. Inglis said, “but I felt it was important to do that in the primary so that the outcome in the general was not as startling.”

“I wanted African-American voters to hear me in the primary, and not a week before the general, to give us credibility.”

He said a part of the problem in reaching out to black and Hispanic voters is the “monochromatic hue” of the party, which also creates a cultural barrier to building relationships.

“I think the bridge to building a more colorful Republican Party is through building relationships that are substantial and don’t just occur at election time.”

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