“This Republican Party base is white, aging and dying off,” he said.
Many Republicans, however, worry about making overt racial appeals to minorities.
“Amongst politicians, amongst people who cover politics, there’s an overwhelming tendency to silo voters,” said Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at a breakfast hosted by The Post and Bloomberg News. “As Republicans, we take on a huge risk if we try to appeal to voters . . . within a mind-set of silos instead of making direct appeals on the issues that they’re actually talking about in their household — not necessarily in their category, but in their household.”
A new Post poll put the difference between the two parties’ perception of minority voters on stark display. Respondents were asked an open-ended question: Why do most black voters so consistently support Democrats?
Though “don’t know” was the top answer for members of both parties, a close second among Republicans was that black voters are dependent on government or seeking a government handout. Democrats more often said that their party addresses issues of poverty.
In Tampa, Republicans have devoted significant time to brainstorming how to expand the party’s appeal to Latinos. At various forums and lectures, they have debated whether the GOP should change its tone in discussing illegal immigration, appeal more directly to religious Latinos on social issues or make a more explicit argument that Republicans can help boost the economic prospects of Latino communities.
“We as a party have got to get it,” said Mel Martinez, a former senator from Florida and a former RNC chairman, speaking at a Tuesday event sponsored by Univision and the National Journal. “We’ve got to get smart about this. We could be relegated to a minority party. . . . We’ve got to find a way to make that connection.”
There has been less discussion of new ways to reach out to black voters, in part out of a recognition that the first African American president has a special relationship with African American voters.
Davis, who in 2008 helped nominate Obama at the Democratic National Convention but became disenchanted with the president’s handling of the economy, said that to reach black voters, Republicans must expand their message beyond limiting government.
“It’s not just enough to go into the black community and say, ‘We want to keep government from taking over your life.’ That doesn’t resonate in a whole lot of the black community, who have come to see government as a salvation and as economic leveler,” he said. “It’s going to take being willing to define conservatism as not just a defense of economic liberty but as a broader way of constructing a society that can promote social mobility.”
Romney adviser Tara Wall said, “We know that a majority of black Americans will vote for President Obama,” but “that doesn’t mean Democrats or President Obama own the black vote or can take every black vote for granted.”
She said Romney’s policies on school choice, social issues and job creation appeal to black families.
“These are some common principles that we share and that we can engage on,” she said. “This is a long-term effort. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
Raynard Jackson, a black GOP political consultant, wrote Tuesday on the RootDC Live blog that he is “embarrassed by the lack of diversity” at the convention and frustrated by his party’s empty promises.
“The Republican line is that the overwhelming majority of blacks will vote for Obama because he is African American,” Jackson wrote. “I find this thinking extremely insulting as a black Republican. The reason the majority of blacks will vote for Obama is because Republicans have not given African Americans a reason to vote for Republicans or Romney.”
Aaron Blake contributed to this report.