Lynn Swann, Happy to Be on the President's Team
Thursday, August 17, 2006
LANCASTER, Pa., Aug. 16 -- Gerry Robinson slowly made his way between the small, round tables set up in an exhibition hall here, as he and a couple hundred supporters of NFL Hall of Famer Lynn Swann awaited the arrival of President Bush.
Bush spent the afternoon in southeastern Pennsylvania, where he also visited a Harley-Davidson plant, in an effort to shine a light on his handling of the economy and boost Swann's candidacy for governor. Both have been struggling lately.
Polls have found that high gasoline prices and flat wages have left most Americans anxious about the economy. Meanwhile, Swann, a Republican, is facing a 20-point deficit and a huge fundraising gap in his race against incumbent Edward G. Rendell (D).
Sporting Bono-style shades, Bush hopped on a Harley and held an economic roundtable with workers at the company's plant in nearby York. Later, he took a helicopter here to headline a fundraiser that drew 350 people and raised $700,000 for Swann.
Given Bush's flagging popularity, it is open to question whether his appearance could boost confidence in the economy or bring more than money to Swann, the Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver-turned-television broadcaster.
But for Robinson, who with Swann was among the handful of African Americans in the room, Bush's visit made for a good day.
"The fact that the president is here speaks loudly to the commitment of the Republican Party to black political office-seekers," said Robinson, 55, a divorce lawyer who lives here.
Robinson said he supports Swann because he shares what he calls Swann's conservative values and likes his platform, which features calls for tax cuts, opposition to abortion, and a proposal to increase incentives for private firms to fund public education. But he readily acknowledges that his is hardly a popular position among African Americans.
"If you ask most African Americans, their social values line right up with the Republican Party," said Robinson, repeating an assertion often made by GOP pollsters. "But ask them if they would vote Republican, they say, 'No way. I can't do that.' "
Robinson said it was the old glue of politics -- patronage -- that affixed him to the GOP. When he was growing up in the housing projects in Reading, Pa., his mother dated a guy she saw only on weekends, because he worked in New Jersey.
She volunteered for a Republican candidate, who was elected mayor. One thing led to another, and her boyfriend was appointed town clerk. They got married, and later Robinson's stepfather was installed as executive director of the housing authority.
"For me, it showed that you have opportunities in the Republican Party that you don't have in the Democratic Party," he said.