Bush urges blacks to break with Democrats
DETROIT, United States (AFP) - US President George W. Bush passionately wooed black voters, who voted against him by a 9-1 margin in 2000, and urged them to break their traditional allegiance to the Democratic party.
In a speech to the non-profit National Urban League community-based group, Bush played off a recent poll showing 35 percent of black voters think Democrats automatically assume they can count on their support.
"Does the Democrat Party take African-American voters for granted? That's a fair question. I know plenty of politicians assume they have your vote, but do they earn it and do they deserve it?" he said, winning scattered applause.
Bush played up his appointments of blacks to serve in key administration jobs, including Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites), as well as Education Secretary Rod Paige.
"Listen, (the) Republican Party's got a lot of work to do. I understand that," he said, drawing laughter and applause.
But "is it a good thing for the African-American community to be represented mainly by one political party? A legitimate question. How is it possible to gain political leverage if the party is never forced to compete?" he asked.
Bush's stop here aimed to repair some of the damage from his decision to snub an invitation to address the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), citing its leaders' sharp criticisms of him.
His remarks came as a new poll showed 79 percent of black voters back Democratic White House hopeful John Kerry but suggested that their support for him is not as warm as it was for then-vice president Al Gore four years ago.
Just 27 percent of the 1,000 respondents to a July 6-15 Black Entertainment Television/CBS News poll said they were enthusiastic about the senator from Massachusetts' bid for the White House, while 58 percent said they were merely satisfied.
And the study, which had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, included a warning for Democrats, with 35 percent of respondents saying the party takes blacks for granted.
Still, those are numbers the Bush team can only dream about: 85 percent disapprove of his handling of his job and 90 percent say the war in Iraq was not worth it.
The study found that an overwhelming number of black voters say the US economy, in which job growth has come in fits and starts, is the most important issue, with employment the top concern.
Aiming to capitalize on that, Bush also unveiled a modest plan to partner the US government with the Urban League to promote black business ownership.
Yeah, the Republican Party has a lot of work to do.