TAMPA, Fla. — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney finished the GOP’s 40th Republican National Convention yesterday by giving his vision for America to the American public and the more than 5,000 delegates in Tampa.
Dr. Jason Johnson is an African-American professor of political science and communications at Hiram College in Ohio. Johnson, who also is a contributing writer for the Politics365 website, attended this year’s GOP convention and said Romney and Ryan’s speeches played well to the GOP party faithful, but he’s not sure if it swayed independents and African-Americans enough to swing the election for Romney.
“I don’t think Mitt Romney is going to do any better with Black people than [Arizona U.S. Sen.] John McCain [in the 2008 general election],” Johnson said. “He [Romney] may go up another percentage point, but he will not break five [percent of the nationwide African-American vote] and that is what he is looking at. He is looking at a situation where he would need to depress turnout for Obama, keep his turnout high, and keep a lot of people from registering to vote if Romney actually has a chance to win the election. Those are three clearly complicated things. They can be accomplished — but they would sort of require a perfect storm for Mitt Romney.”
Finding African-American voting delegates and alternative delegates at this year’s convention was difficult.
The Republican National Convention Press Office tells The Tribune the party does not breakdown delegates by race, so they are not able to provide racial breakdown numbers. This year, 2,286 voting delegates and 2,125 alternative delegates attended the Convention.
Time Magazine’s Swampland website reports that just 46 African-American delegates were at this year’s convention, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The number of African-American delegates was at its highest at 167 in 2004, 16.7 percent of the overall total.
In the delegations representing the Delaware Valley (Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware), New Jersey had the largest number of African-American and minority delegates with five. N.J. GOP Party spokesman Douglass Mayer said they are voting delegates Aubrey Fenton, Mt. Laurel; Keith Walker, Camden; Ronald Perry, Rahway; Harold Edwards Sr,, Newark; and alternate delegate Evern Ford, Woodstown.
Pennsylvania’s delegation has two African-Americans and one Asian as part of the delegation. Philadelphians Lewis Harris, chairman of the Philadelphia Republicans of Color, and Calvin Tucker, Republican 22nd Ward leader, were elected delegates and had a vote on the floor.
Long-time Pennsylvania Republican Renee Amoore attended the convention in her role as party vice chairwoman. City Councilman David Oh attended as a non-voting alternative delegate appointed by Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Rob Gleason.
Delaware GOP Chairman John Sigler said grassroots activist Mark Parks of Bear, Del. is the lone African-American in his delegation. Parks is an alternate delegate. Delaware had 17 voting delegates and 14 alternate delegates.
The African-American delegates interviewed say they share a deep pride in the 2008 historic election of the nation’s first African-American president but they feel the Romney/Ryan ticket is the best shot for future economic prosperity for everyone.
“Historically, I was proud that Barack Obama became the president [in 2008],” said Tucker, who is also co-chair of the Philadelphia Black Republican Council. “I didn’t vote for him. I didn’t support him…Just like a lot of presidents they make significant missteps and they do good things. On the average, (Obama’s) missteps have been things that haven’t advanced our cause as an African-American group.
Dr. C.T. Wright, who was president of Cheyney University from 1982-85, attended the convention along with his wife, Mary. Wright was an elected alternative delegate from Arizona, and the only African-Americans among that delegation’s 29 delegates and 28 alternative delegates.
“I did not support Obama four years ago, and one reason is that Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain was running,” Wright said. “I really admire President Obama, and he has some great policies as well…the thing I am disappointed with in Barack Obama is the fact that he has not been as successful in bringing this country together. We need some leadership to bring this country together. “
Wright doesn’t support the Obama’s position on same-sex marriage and abortion. He says Romney will win Arizona, but he would not predict whether the Romney/Ryan ticket will win on election day.
Rachel Kemp is an African-American female delegate from Boston who attended her first convention. She was also chair of the government reform subcommittee for the party’s platform committee. She believes the Romney/Ryan ticket must stress job creation in order to win the White House.
“Everyone is thinking about jobs and within the African-American community the unemployment rates have been double digit,” Kemp said. “We need to talk about how we’re put the infrastructure back in place so the public knows they are not being kept out of the equation.
“ I’m an American first,” Kemp continued. “I’m not an African-American or a Black American—I’m an American first. I need to think what is best for this country. I don’t think he (Obama) was necessarily prepared to become President of the United States and it was that experience that was lacking.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, chairman of the Pennsylvania delegation to the convention, said minorities should strongly consider looking at voting for the Romney/Ryan ticket this year.
“The economy that we have seen and the lack of growth in the economy over the last four years has affected, more so, people in the minority communities than anywhere else and they should be looking for a change,” Corbett said. “We’re going to try and present that change to them.”
In 1996, Republican Bob Dole received 12 percent of the African-American vote to Democrat Bill Clinton’s 82 percent. In 2000, George W. Bush received nine percent of the African-American vote to Vice President Al Gore’s 90 percent. In 2004, then President Bush received 11 percent of the African-American vote. And in 2008, John McCain received four percent of the African-American vote.
“ They (GOP) have generally won presidential elections without a lot of minority voters,” Johnson said. “They don’t make the African-American community a priority. If Republicans really wanted to attract black people, they would talk about policies that are applicable to Black people and they don’t. They primarily talk about policies that are beneficial to the while middle class.and that is why Blacks tend to flock to the Democrats.”