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Steele falling behind on pledge to woo more minorities to GOP
"When he was selected, there was a hope he would present a different image that would attract more African Americans to the Republican Party so that the party would seem more welcoming to people other than old white guys," said Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan political analyst who writes the Rothenberg Political Report. "He's been in the middle of so much controversy that he hasn't been able to do that."
As the conservative Web site Daily Caller noted in a recent article, more than two dozen black candidates are running in House races across the country, some with enthusiastic backing from Republicans in Washington.
But only a handful, such as Ryan Frazier in Colorado and Allen West in Florida, are expected to emerge as victors in primaries against other Republicans in districts where they could then also win the general election. Many of them either won't win primaries or are running in districts with strong Democratic incumbents. It remains likely that, after this year's elections, the number of black Republican members of Congress will remain the same as it has been since Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) retired from the House in 2003: zero.
"We are more diverse than we've been in the past, and that's something we will continue to work on," said Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) who has been involved in recruiting House candidates for the GOP.
Of course, the challenges for Republicans in wooing minority voters far predate Steele's tenure. It would have been impossible to expect him to dramatically turn around the perception of the party among minorities or recruit a huge bloc of black candidates in a single year.
Steele's office did not respond to a request for comment on his minority outreach efforts, but an interview last November, he said, "This is a baby-step process."
"A black chairman doesn't mean everybody is going to be a Republican. It doesn't work that way," he said.
Asked if Steele stepping down would negatively affect the GOP, Watts, now a lobbyist, said "What, with black people? We haven't done anything to attract them yet."
Thompson reported from New York. Staff writer Amy Gardner, polling director Jon Cohen and polling analyst Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.