Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Swann also rises

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette provides an interesting analysis of the impact of Lynn Swann in the Governor's race in Pennsylvania, in an article entitled Swann part of the rise of black Republicans. Politics editor James O'Toole writes a front page article on the issue of the number of black republicans in major races this year, accompanied by a huge picture of Lynn Swann. O'Toole notes:

Mr. Swann's candidacy has helped give life -- if not yet proof -- to the narrative national GOP leaders are trying to present as a new Republican story, a tale of a party unwilling to cede any demographic groups to Democrats, one not content with monochromatic victories.
Of course, as with any Republican endeavor, it's more of a PR move, rather than any change in philosophy. The story is all there is, there is no substance. However, they've managed to fool a good number of other Americans with their rhetoric, so why not blacks? After all, they don't need to convince everyone:

"No one that I've talked to thinks these [African-American] candidates can attract even anything approaching a majority, but if they can attract even 25 or 35 percent, that would make a crucial difference." said Dr. John Green, the director of the Ray Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.

* * * *

Mr. Green said that while African-American voters, like members of other ethnic groups, feel an affinity with a candidate perceived as one of their own, Mr. Blackwell and other African-American Republicans face a ceiling imposed by black voters who generally have more liberal views on economic issues.

In an analysis of Allegheny County voting patterns in several recent elections, Christopher P. Briem, an economist with the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Social and Urban Research, found that party, rather than race, was a more accurate guide to the voting preferences of African Americans.

"If the Republican Party is going to become more appealing and accessible to the minority community, they're going to have to do more than change the faces of their candidates," said Ken Snyder, a Democratic consultant. "They're going to have to actually change their policies, which have been downright hostile to the urban centers where so many African Americans live."

But one Republican strategist argued that any measurable inroad into the Democrats' minority support, even if Mr. Rendell still held onto the bulk of the African-Americans voters, could be fatal to the Democrat's re-election.

"If [Mr. Swann] got 18 to 25 percent [of black voters], he would be elected governor," the Republican said.

Mr. Wheatley, the Hill District Democrat, who is an African American, said that he didn't expect that level of support to be within the Republican's grasp in Pennsylvania.

"Democrats can't take black votes for granted; African Americans are like any other group. You have to appeal to them on reason and issues, but do I think Swann can get 20 percent or 30 percent? No, I don't think so."

* * * *

Mr. Green cautioned, however, that this year's roster of black Republican candidates does not signal the attainment of some new critical mass in African-American political allegiance.

"There's an awful lot of talk about the rise of black Republicans; you do see that at the elite levels and that's why it's being written about," he said. "But we don't see much of that [trend] in the broader population. What we need to do watch is to see to what extent Republicans can translate that into the mass level. That's much harder to do; those kinds of changes take a long time."
I've touched on the Swann candidacy in a few other posts, see Swann Song and Hahbahtdem Stillers. As I mentioned, I am concerned about the impact of Swann in the governor's race. Swann is not in this to be able to give voice to his long held views, even if those beliefs are of a conservative kind. No, as is painfully clear, he hasn't even formulated his beliefs yet. What makes things worse is the fact that it is so transparent that Swann is only there to be a spoiler.

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