Since his reelection, Bush is seeking a "major shift" with blacks.
Political strategists say the president’s meetings with minority groups and his move to highlight policies important to them is the start of a major effort to court constituencies that have predominantly embraced
Democrats. Bush attracted 11 percent of the black vote in 2004, up three percentage points from 2000. Initial polls showed Bush attracting 44 percent of the Hispanic vote last year after getting 35 percent in 2000. Democrats have called the 44 percent figure overstated.
What is not in dispute, however, is that the battle for the minority vote will be fierce in 2006 and 2008.
Two days after the 2004 election, then-Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie predicted that the 2008 GOP presidential nominee would secure 30 percent of the black vote. Gillespie said that the Democratic Party should be on notice that it should not take blacks for granted.
Many have scoffed at Gillespie’s 2008 prediction, but it reveals that Republicans are not satisfied with getting only one in 10 black votes.
Over the past several months, Bush has met with black ministers and with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).
Rep. Major Owens (D-N.Y.) recently told the Los Angeles Times, “Our party is in grave danger. This Republican movement is going to expand exponentially unless we do something.”
The early days of Bush’s second term on minority issues contrast somewhat with his first four years. The president was praised for his $15 billion AIDS funding initiative for Africa but had a testy relationship with the NAACP.
Moreover, big businesses that contribute predominantly to the Republican Party spoke out strongly against Bush’s affirmative-action stance when the administration opposed the University of Michigan’s affirmative-action policies in a 2003 Supreme Court case.
In his State of the Union address last week, Bush pledged $150 million for a new program designed to reduce gang violence, a mostly urban problem that has crept into suburban America.
In his second term, Bush has continued to include minorities in his Cabinet, such as Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
[I]n his State of the Union, Bush announced that he wants to expand the use of DNA evidence to prevent wrongful convictions and will present a proposal to Congress to pay for special training for defense lawyers in capital cases.
In an interview yesterday, Gillespie said that there are many signs that African-Americans are leaving the Democratic Party. He said that an increasing number of black voters age 18-40 are registering as independents and that “there is an undercurrent of frustration among African-Americans with the Democratic Party.”
“We are on the verge of a major shift,” Gillespie said.
Some Democrats have said that the Republican Party cannot make major advances in the black community until it changes its stance on affirmative action. Gillespie said that affirmative action “has ceased to be an issue” since the Supreme Court ruled on the Michigan case two years ago.
Bush’s move to trim the federal budget by attempting to cut Medicaid and education programs could hamper his effort to court minorities.
The Jan. 26 meeting was only the second scheduled meeting Bush has had with the CBC in his four-plus years in office.
[Kenneth McClintock (D), president of the Puerto Rico Senate,] said that the Democratic Party needs to pay more attention to Hispanic voters. He suggested the party not have a “die-hard litmus” test on moral issues because Hispanics tend to be more religious than other voters. He has lobbied for the election of Alvaro Cifuentes, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) Hispanic Caucus, for DNC vice chairman, saying it would be embraced by Hispanics.
He added that Democrats need to “make peace with the Cuban-American community.”
(2-9-05 The Hill.)