As the GOP prepares to meet in Tampa next week, Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has been meeting with a team of politically diverse Black advisors as part of his growing campaign strategy against President Barack Obama, confirms a campaign spokesperson.
“There is a Black coalitions group that meets regularly with the Romney campaign,” says Tara Wall, senior communications and coalitions advisor for the Romney campaign. “This is not new. This is something that’s been going on for several months.”
Speaking guardedly about the advisors during an interview with the Trice Edney News Wire, Wall declined to give names of any Democrats who might be involved. “They are not just Republicans. They’re a diverse group,” she said.
She did mention the Rev. Jeff Brown as being someone to whom Romney listens. Brown is the African-American co-founder of the Boston Ten Points Coalition, who spoke highly of Romney during his appearance at the NAACP Convention in July. Brown said he was not endorsing Romney per se, but told the media how Romney had worked “in a bi-partisan fashion with inner city Black clergy” when he was governor of Massachusetts.
Wall said of Romney, “He has worked in a bi-partisan fashion; he had to have Democrats to help him pass legislation in Massachusetts. He’s not immune to that … At the end of the day, if he does become president, he does want to become president and will become president for all Americans and we have to have a seat at the table. Black America wants to have a seat at the table.”
President Obama, who won nearly 98 percent of the Black vote during his historic campaign in 2008, has come under significant criticism by Blacks who are dissatisfied with the steadily high jobless rate in the Black community. Despite the disparate economic impact on African-Americans, Obama is still expected to win heavy support among Black voters, though grassroots organizers are complaining about a lack of motivation.
For example, Baltimore Pastor Jamal-Harrison Bryant held what he called a “Code Red” conference, sponsored by his “Empowerment Movement” last week in an attempt to get African-American church leaders oriented to get out the vote.
Wall, a former CNN contributor and deputy editorial page editor for the conservative Washington Times, indicated that Romney will attempt to take advantage of every slip in support for Obama.
“Obviously a majority of Black Americans are going to once again vote for President Obama,” Wall said. “But he doesn’t enjoy the large margins that he once enjoyed. I’ve seen polling numbers where those margins have been reduced to 85 and 90 percent among Black Americans. That alone is significant enough to put Mitt Romney in the win column.”
Wall says she has heard some Blacks who voted for Obama in 2008 saying they will not do so again. However, she stressed that Black support for Romney does not have to mean defecting Black Democrats. She acknowledged that some Black Republicans also voted for Obama the last time. Among Obama’s Black Republican supporters in 2008 was former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has not yet endorsed anyone in the current campaign.
“I think we also want to get out our base of Black Republicans and conservatives and moderates and some folks who voted for President Obama the last time that we want to make sure they check the box for Gov. Romney this time,” Wall said.
She said in order to achieve that, Republican Party leaders must recognize and embrace the diversity even among Black Republicans.
“Republicans can’t be monolithic when it comes to Black Americans; not even Black Republicans. We are not monolithic-thinking and Black Republicans are not monolithic- thinking. Within Black conservatism there is diversity. There is diversity of viewpoints – moderate, liberal, conservative Black Republicans,” Wall said. “And I think anybody, whether it’s the [Republican] Party, Democrats or the President, runs a risk [when] painting a broad brush. You can’t cast everyone in one category.”
One example of a conservative Black Democrat is former Congressman Artur Davis, a former Obama supporter-turned Republican, who will be speaking at the Republican Convention in Tampa Aug. 27-30. Davis’ recent party switch comes as no surprise to political observers, particularly since he was the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus who voted against the President’s Affordable Care Act.
Wall says that Romney attempted to show his desire to dialog with Blacks when he accepted the invitation to speak before the NAACP.
“He said he would be back to the NAACP if they would have him. So, he is very open to that. He has made that known and will make no bones about it,” Wall said.
Despite Romney’s outreach to the NAACP, saying he desires to “represent all Americans”, the audience of civil rights leaders booed him heavily when he said he would “eliminate expensive non-essential programs like Obamacare.”
Apparently unfazed by the boos, Wall said, “There are going to be areas of disagreement. You’re not going to agree a hundred percent. But I think that the point is he’s also not going to pander and change his message because it’s a different audience.”
Wall expressed hope that the “business acumen” of Romney will appeal to African-Americans amidst racially disparate economic struggles. Romney is a multi-millionaire, mainly from his own businesses.
“I think they know that Gov. Romney brings some economic change and opportunity with his message,” she said. “At this point where it comes to economics and jobs and small business I think there are a lot of folks who believe this is an imperative and are willing to listen to Gov. Romney as to what the he brings to the table to help close the gap economically between Black and White…Romney – He has a strong record, he has business acumen. I think those are the principles that should apply to help bring