WASHINGTON — Looking to further expand their party's political advantage, Republican officials will announce today a committee of African American leaders and experts on minority voting to develop a strategy to attract more blacks to the GOP.
The group includes well-known black conservatives, such as former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), and activists drawn to the party in recent years by the Bush administration's outreach to African American ministers and business people.
"This is a very serious priority for this party today," said Kenneth Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee.
In recent days, Mehlman attended a series of town hall meetings in black communities and appeared on a television show hosted by black commentator Tavis Smiley.
"Is this going to be a long and sustained effort? Absolutely," Mehlman said.
"Will it be dramatic and happen overnight? I don't think it will."
The GOP remains behind the Democrats in attracting black voters: President Bush won 11% of the black vote in the 2004 presidential election. But, Republican strategists said, he got 16% of the black vote in Ohio, which helped secure his victory in that state.