A courtship worth watching
Conservatives come calling, and blacks may be listening this time
Warning. That may be a challenge, given the players involved. But Mehlman's efforts, at least, were lent credibility in a recent column by black Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. "Democrats should stop ignoring that Republicans are going after their most loyal base," Brazile tells U.S. News, adding that Democrats "are in the Stone Age when it comes to African-American outreach."
Republicans face their own obstacles. Jackson, who is pro-affirmative action and wants to reform "three strikes" sentencing laws, says turning black churchgoers into conservative "values" voters can happen only if the Christian right and the GOP take up issues of importance to blacks that have long been the province of Democrats. "Republicans think morality is only the life and marriage issue," says former Republican Rep. J. C. Watts, who is black. "But racism is a moral issue. So is being able to eat and have a roof over your head."
For now, these new outreach efforts are in their infancy; the Mayflower group won't have office space till next month. But analysts agree that the GOP needs only modest gains to make a big difference. "For us, 20 percent [of the black vote] would be the death knell of the Democrats," says Phyllis Berry Myers, a Mayflower founder. It doesn't sound like an outsize goal. For Democrats, that's a sobering thought.