As chatter and speculation picks up over the 2016 presidential election, the Republican Party is once again making noise about attracting more African-American voters, holding a meeting with Black leaders in Detroit and adding staff to increase Black outreach.
Party leaders are encouraged by the success of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who garnered an estimated 21 percent of the Black vote in his trouncing last week of Democratic challenger Barbara Buono. In the 2012 presidential election, Republican Mitt Romney captured just 6 percent of the Black vote.
In Detroit, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, held a meeting with a group of African-American business and community leaders and also announced the hiring of Wayne Bradley, the host of an online radio show, to head the party’s African-American Engagement effort in economically struggling Michigan. Priebus also announced the launch of the 13-member Michigan Black Advisory Council.
The Republican Party will be conducting similar initiatives in states like New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia.
Michigan will be a difficult challenge for the Republican Party—even though the state has a Republican governor, Rick Snyder. Michigan has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1992 and last year Obama beat Romney in Michigan, 54 to 45 percent—even though Romney’s father used to be governor of the state.
“It’s long overdue,” Priebus said at a news conference in Detroit at the Renaissance Center Marriott. “It’s based on the fundamental principle, if you want to get the sale, you’ve got to show up and ask for the order.”
Priebus said the party cannot have success by showing up “once every four years, three months before an election.”
“It just doesn’t work,” he said. “We want to have a coast-to-coast granular party in communities across America like Detroit. Be there, stay there and get community leaders from the community of which we want to influence, but never go away.”
Kiara Pesante, director of African American-Media for the Democratic National Committee, told CNN that the Republican Party has long “proven that it is out of touch with the needs of African-Americans.”
“They have repeatedly promised to change their positions and to listen to the needs of key constituencies – and have failed,” Pesante said, expressing doubt that new initiatives will make a difference.