U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee, and former Clinton administration official Deval Patrick, who is campaigning for the governorship of Massachusetts.)
These are not symbolic races. They’re high-stakes contests that may determine if Republicans maintain control of key states and of Congress. Or they could serve as a referendum on the GOP and, in particular, the policies of the Bush administration. Moreover, many political analysts foresee the statewide and congressional races having a dramatic impact on the 2008 presidential election. In fact, the GOP considers Blackwell’s campaign a must-win since historically no Republican president has ever won the White House without taking the state of Ohio.
Ron Walters, a political analyst and director of the African American Leadership Institute, say the Republicans are using these candidates to play a numbers game. “The Republicans have been trying to make inroads into the black vote. It is not so much the fact that they thought they were going to win the black vote, but traditionally, the strategy has been to try to get a sliver of the black vote,” he says. “If they could get at least 15% of the black vote then they can cut into enough close races and cost the Democrats the victory. And that’s been the objective.”
Walters further applies his calculus to the Steele campaign: “You see that in a state like Maryland where Steele is running and right now he’s polling about 24% of the black vote. If you got up as high as 35% or 40%, he would be running even with Ben Cardin, who is the white Democratic candidate running for the Senate. You put forward Steele and, hopefully, in a state that’s 2-to-1 Democrat, he would get enough of the black Democratic votes to win.”
For black Republicans, this day has been a long time coming. In fact, some believe the recent slate of candidates is a healthy development and may make the majority of African Americans less beholden to the Democratic Party. Says Joe Rogers, the former Republican lieutenant governor of Colorado and only one of four blacks to ever hold such an elected position: “Well, I think what you see happening around the country right now is something that is remarkable and good for the country to be quite frank with you. The key issue for us as African Americans is that we have to have key people at every table in America. There ought to be no place within American society in which we do not have a presence. And clearly in the context of both political parties in the United States, we have to have not just the presence at the Democratic Party table, but we ought to have a presence at the Republican Party table. That way, our interests are consistently protected as a people regardless of which party is in power.”
But black Republicans may have the same challenges as Democrats when trying to snare white votes in statewide or national races. According to a recent study of voter patterns between 1982