But the speech itself is a necessary test for the latest Republican proposition: that the first, necessary step to win over minorities is not just through policy proposals, but merely by showing up to make a case. Despite the GOP’s relentless focus on immigration reform as a silver-bullet strategy to win over Hispanics, they may find that courting African-Americans would be an equally fruitful approach. With Latinos, some Republican groups have engaged in outreach, but with few results to show. With African-Americans, there has been virtually no effort.
On its face, that notion that Republicans could make inroads with black voters seems ludicrous. President Obama won black voters by an overwhelming 87-point margin over Mitt Romney. In the post-civil-rights era, Republicans have barely tried to compete for African-American support. The last time a Republican won more than 15 percent of the black vote was during Richard Nixon’s candidacy in 1960.
Because the bar is so low, even small gains among African-Americans could yield impressive results in the future. The relevant question is whether it’s easier to win over a relatively low number of black voters, or winning support from a near-majority of Hispanics. If Romney received, say, 15 percent of the black vote in the 2012 presidential election, Florida, Ohio, and Virginia would likely have flipped to Republicans, putting Romney a hair away from the presidency.