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September 28, 2007
Top GOP Candidates Shun Debate on Minority Issues
I'm sure there's a mighty division of opinion on this. My personal feelings are here. But the fact is, one of the cardinal rules in politics is you don't allow your opponent to define you or your intentions.
Well, by skipping the debate at Morgan State University on minority issues, the probable next GOP candidate for president stuck out his chin and gave the Democrats a free shot at him:
Fred D. Thompson was at a fundraiser in Franklin, Tenn. Mitt Romney was gathering checks in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. Rudolph W. Giuliani was in California raking in some last-minute cash just north of Napa. John McCain spent the day in New York City, giving a speech and raising money. Precious few primary votes were to be had by appearing, that's for sure. But the nature of the debate was historic enough that not recognizing its significance demonstrates a tone deafness toward the electorate that does not bode well for the future:
Such were the scheduling conflicts that left the lecterns for the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination empty at what was billed as the first GOP debate tailored to the concerns of black voters, held last night at Morgan State University in Baltimore.
For the last several years, Republicans boasted of expanded outreach to minorities, claiming to renounce the Southern strategy which included racially divisive campaign tactics," Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Amaya Smith said in a statement. "Now when it's time to show up, Republicans are missing in action." If the criteria for not attending was a demonstrated lack of interest on the part of African Americans and other minorities to vote Republican, perhaps it is just as well to ask how many votes were lost as a result of not attending? Anything that re-enforces the party's image as being insenitive to minorites will almost certainly cost it votes among moderates.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich had called the decision to avoid the event an "enormous error" and "fundamentally wrong," and had said the scheduling excuses were "baloney." Ken Mehlman, a former party chairman, had urged the candidates to reconsider. And former vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp had said their decisions make it seem as though Republicans do not want black votes.
Once again, the GOP has put its foot in it when it comes to reaching out to minorities.