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GOP Courts Traditional Democrats

Politics: Ad efforts aimed at Latino and black voters 'are additional evidence that Gov. Bush is a different kind of Republican,' campaign officials say.


The Republican Party and the George W. Bush presidential campaign launched an advertising effort this week aimed at traditionally Democratic voters in black and Latino communities.

GOP officials will make their largest advertising appeal ever to black voters by spending more than $1 million over the next month on four radio commercials designed for black listeners nationwide.

Meanwhile, Bush's campaign is broadcasting a Spanish-language version of an ad on education that is also airing in English. The ad claims that 58% of urban fourth-graders cannot read.

"We're trying to build a relationship," said Jim Nicholson, chairman of the Republican National Committee, whose 1996 presidential nominee, Bob Dole, drew only 13% of the black vote.

Nicholson said he wasn't "expecting any miracles" from the radio ads, which will be broadcast nationally by the American Urban Radio Networks, a distributor of black-oriented programming. The ads will also air on other stations in four of the most competitive states in the presidential contest: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky and Missouri.

Bush campaign officials said their Spanish-language commercial will be broadcast in Florida and New Mexico. They said the ads aimed at traditionally Democratic groups "are additional evidence that Gov. Bush is a different kind of Republican."

"Having the ads on Spanish-language TV or predominantly African American radio are great ways to inform and persuade a significant number of Hispanic and African American voters," said Ray Sullivan, a Bush spokesman.

Nicholson said the party believes it has a chance to increase its share of black votes based on survey research it conducted earlier this year. In a survey of 1,000 black voters, Nicholson said many respondents favored school vouchers, for example, but didn't know it was a Republican proposal. Black voters ages 18 to 35, he said, are "open-minded" about backing Republicans because they think "the Democratic Party has been taking them for granted."

In one of the radio spots, a mix of voices cites concerns about the GOP, such as "I guess it's good for a certain tax bracket," before a male voice says, "Look, we know what you think Republicans are like. But we're working hard to show you who we really are. We're listening and we're learning and working to help all families. . . . Take a look, you may be surprised by what you see."

In another spot, a woman says her husband thinks the GOP is "talking sense on education and tax credits or something." A second woman cuts in, "I knew that man was crazy. I told you before you married him." To which the first woman responds, "I know. But you know, some of their plans sound good. They're talking about education, and I like that."

Two other spots discuss in more detail the GOP's plans to offer government vouchers to pay for private schools and partially privatize Social Security.

In airing the spots nationally, the GOP is making an "acknowledgment that the years when they could use race negatively, they're over," said David Bositis, senior political analyst for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which examines minority trends. "Now the Republican Party knows they have to change."

He cited the party's traditional opposition to affirmative action as one issue on which the GOP alienated black voters.

Bositis said the GOP "peaked" among its core voting blocs in 1996, when it drew about 65% of Southern white voters, and suggested it was looking for new support outside its traditional base. Blacks comprise about 12% of the voting age population.

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