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May 18, 2005
More On GOP Outreach To Black Communities

Yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer also noticed that Ken Mehlman has been working quietly to develop new ties to the African-American community, as I noted Monday as a contrast to Howard Dean's stewardship of the DNC. The Inquirer remarks on Mehlman's success in developing candidates for strategic races in Pennsylvania, which just barely went into the Democratic column in 2004 and where Democrats can hardly afford to lose any further ground:

Give us a chance, we'll give you a choice. That's the party mantra as Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, travels around the country speaking almost weekly to black and Hispanic audiences. The emphasis is on shared social values and economic opportunity. President Bush's backing of education reform, and recent increases in home ownership and small businesses among African Americans are touted. Outreach and advisory committees are being formed nationally, statewide and locally.

Monday's news was the conversion of Harrisburg's influential politician, Otto Banks, to the GOP and to active campaigning for Republican candidates among African-Americans. The Inquirer also notices that Lynn Swann, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Hall of Famer who is exploring a run for Governor in 2006. Swann, who made an appearance at the Republican National Convention last year, has impressed audiences with both his style and substance and may complicate Democratic plans to defeat Rick Santorum for the upcoming Senate race as well as the gubernatorial election:

"The reception he's received... has been very good," Holman says. "He's a natural Republican conservative, but he also has the ability to reach across and build bridges throughout the many Pennsylvanias there are, both regionally and culturally."

Impressive was the word many Republicans used after seeing Swann at a recent GOP reception in Blue Bell. And those in attendance seemed more than eager to have their picture taken with him or get an autograph, overshadowing his two potential rivals - former Lt. Gov. William Scranton and State Sen. Jeffrey Piccola - who also spoke to the crowd. ...

Granted, it's early in the race. Swann must first make the rounds, court party regulars. But if, in time, he does answer those questions, and if he is one of four African American Republicans running for high office, then 2006 becomes a significant election year. Pennsylvanians get a second high-profile race, in addition to Sen. Rick Santorum vs. Bob Casey Jr. The GOP shows it's serious about change. And Democrats get nervous.

Having a smart, talented man such as Swann at the top of the ballot in Pennsylvania gives the entire election a fresh look for African-Americans. The impact of their bloc voting has been well noted by both sides, and the Democrats simply don't have any other constituencies which will make up for a significant loss of those votes. With Swann leading the state GOP, even the more conservative Santorum may have a better opportunity to have his case heard and appreciated by a community almost inured to Democratic assumptions of victory. Any significant crossover at the top of the ticket will have an effect down ballot as well.

What's Howard Dean doing while Mehlman builds the GOP at his expense? Democrats may want to find out.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 18, 2005 12:16 PM

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