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Home News Afro Briefs Originally published September 17, 2012

Romney Black Outreach: Thin, Hollow, Political Scholars Say

by Zenitha Prince
Special to the AFRO

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    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s outreach to African-American voters is half-hearted at best and, at worse, a ploy to appeal to White voters, Black political experts say.

“This is one of the least visible outreach efforts of any Republican campaign,” said Lorenzo Morris, chair of the political science department at Howard University.

Jason Johnson, a political analyst from Hiram College in Ohio, added that the Republican candidate’s efforts among the Black electorate is geared toward reducing the negative impact that significant Black turnout would have on his chances of winning the White House.

“Mitt Romney does not really have any interest in Black voters [nor is he] spending much time and money wooing [them] because he knows it’s not a winning proposition,” Johnson said.

The Romney campaign’s true focus is on “high turnout among Republican voters, getting moderates and Independents who are upset about the economy and African-American and Latino voters not turning out because of voter ID laws,” the African American analyst added.

In the lead-up to the party conventions in late August, an {NBC/Wall Street Journal} poll revealed that the Republican presidential candidate had zero support among Blacks. About one month before, he was booed while addressing the NAACP convention—though the campaign later released a video edited to make it seem that he received a warm welcome.

“This lack of support among African-American voters does not necessarily equal his not being committed to African Americans,” argued Linda Lee Tarver, who is Black and the ethnic vice chair of the Michigan Republican Party. “The lack of support is primarily because we have a Black president” who is a Democrat.

Still, in what may be an attempt to make inroads into this intractably-Democratic voting bloc, the campaign has since launched a group called the Black Leadership Council, which features Black Republican standouts such as former Rep. Artur Davis, an Alabama Democrat-turned-Republican, Utah congressional candidate Mia Love and Reps. Tim Scott (S.C.) and Allen West (Fla.).

The council provides an opportunity for Black leaders to offer feedback to the campaign on issues impacting African-American communities, officials said.

“I am proud to have the endorsements of so many leaders in the Black community,” said Romney in a statement. “They know all too well that the economic downturn that has continued to hammer our country has been even more devastating for Black Americans. Together, we will work to end that downturn, and we will not rest until all Americans have the jobs they need, the quality education they are owed, and the opportunities they deserve.”

Morris, the political analyst from Howard, said the move was designed to paint the campaign as inclusive in the eyes of White voters.

“You have to be able to show some degree of viability with the larger electorate, in that you have to show some evidence that you have the capability of attracting and maintaining minorities to your campaign,” Morris said.

Tarver, who sits on the Council, supported the measure as a “necessary” and “timely” tool that demonstrated Romney’s dedication to the Black community.

“Mitt Romney wants to give us his ear and a seat at the table to discuss the issues that affect our communities. And to be able to have a direct line to the campaign is great. It ensures we have a voice in this campaign,” she said.

Not only has the GOP candidate given Black leaders an ear, but he will do for the Black community what President Obama failed to do in the past four years, Tarver added.

“We need a leader at the national level who will put aside politics to do what’s right for African Americans. “The president is too polarizing and too far to the left to help the people who support him,” she said.

“There have been no (positive) changes in our condition since he’s been president,” Tarver added. “I have two college-age children who thought that hope and change was coming and it hasn’t…. He’s definitely failed us.”



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