'The Year of the Black Republican?'
I was skeptical when I saw the Washington Post headline, "The Year of the Black Republican?"
Black Repubs are nothing new, but the press has usually framed the left/right discourse in terms that Dems view them, generally as anomolous. So I was prepared for another race identity = liberal piece.
But after the usual recital of black/Dem allegiance debts, Dan Balz and Matthew Mosk focus on the political race of the three subjects: Lynn Swann (Governor, Penn.), Michael Steele (Senate, Md.), and Kenneth Blackwell (Governor, Ohio).
Steele faces a blue state with just under one-third black votership; Swann is a celebrity and a rookie; and Blackwell faces the usual uphill road of a black conservative with a record (the charge: deciding while conservative=corruption).
The three are running on similar platforms of lower taxes, smaller government, and opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, but they come to their contests with different credentials. Blackwell has a long résumé in elective office and conservative causes. Steele is a former state party chairman but has never been elected on his own. Swann is a true political novice, albeit one with the star quality of a Hall of Fame wide receiver.
All three begin as underdogs. Independent polls have shown Steele starting the campaign as much as 15 points behind the Democratic front-runner. Blackwell trailed by 10 percentage points in a pre-primary Mason-Dixon poll for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Swann trails Rendell in the polls and has lost ground since entering the race earlier this year.
The Repubs acknowledge strategy at work - ""We've gone from a model of outreach to a model of inclusion," [RNC Chair Ken] Mehlman said. "Outreach is a top-down approach. Inclusion says, 'Let's find some really good people and encourage them to run for office.' "
More to the point, both parties are looking at the long haul of voting patterns and black conservatives "proving" themselves to the left.
Voting patterns may change, and black voters may embrace conservatism and what it offers, but the Dem stance is unlikely to drop its cynicism regardless of the performance of the likes of Steele, Swann and Blackwell.
The Dems' real concern is the money required for these and other key races. Given the appeal of Steele in particular and the other two candidates in general as well as the profile of the offices in question, the demands will be steep.
CP @ GMC.