Republicans are proud of producing the most racially diverse convention in the party’s history this year, with the number of minority participants increasing 70 percent since 2000.
More than 800 of the 4,853 delegates at the GOP convention later this month in New York City, or about 17 percent, will be minorities, with Hispanics—a group the Bush campaign has tried hard to woo this year—making up the largest part of the group.
“Under the steady leadership and optimistic vision of President Bush, the Republican Party is celebrating a milestone achievement in our party’s connection with America’s minorities,” Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie said yesterday.
Many polls show that Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry has wide leads over Mr. Bush in attracting minority voters. A Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll released last week showed Mr. Kerry with the support of 61 percent of Hispanics compared to just 31 percent for Mr. Bush.
The president, however, earned 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000, and a similar or slightly better showing in November could prove decisive.
Mr. Bush’s spokesmen have been careful to couch talk of attracting minority votes in broad terms, rather than what they consider narrow pandering to certain groups.
“The president is going to continue reaching out to all Americans, including the African-American community and the Hispanic community,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said yesterday. “Based on his record and his agenda for America, he believes that he will receive strong support from people of all walks of life.”
The 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia, which featured minorities in prominent speaking roles, was seen by partisan critics as mere “stagecraft” and not representative of the party at large.
That year, minorities constituted 9 percent of the delegates. In 1996, only 6 percent of Republicans in attendance were non-white.
Officials said black representation at this year’s convention will be up 65 percent from 2000 and Asians will be up 40 percent. The Republican Party calls these numbers a “milestone” and reflective of Mr. Bush’s outreach to minorities and his “compassionate conservative” agenda.
“Minority voters understand that President Bush’s policies are good for the nation as a whole,” said California delegate Rosario Martin, who was appointed as Mr. Bush’s first Treasurer of the United States. One of the convention’s most high-profile speakers is expected to be Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, a rising star in the party who is black.
Mr. Gillespie said that the increase in minority representation at the Republican convention is four times greater than that of the Democrats since 2000. It is especially impressive, he said, since the Democrats use a “quota system” to fill our their ranks and the GOP employs an “open” delegation process.
Democratic National Committee spokesman Jano Cabrera said the notion that his party uses quotas is “absurd,” and was not impressed with the Republicans’ minority gains.
“Managing to cobble together a somewhat more diverse delegation does not change the fact that Republicans are pursuing a narrow, special-interest focused agenda,” Mr. Cabrera said. “We have a party that looks like America because we represent an agenda for all Americans.”
A little more than 40 percent of delegates to last month’s Democratic convention in Boston were minorities, Mr. Cabrera said.
Weeks before the convention, the Tallahassee Democrat reported that a Florida Democratic Party official “explained how many [minorities] had to be picked to meet ‘goals’: a delegation of 20 percent black, 50 percent female and 10 percent gay.”
The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss., also quoted a Democratic Party organizer who explained that “the delegation plan requires it to be balanced by male and female” but its record level of racial diversity “just worked out that way.”