Study: Sharp drop in black GOP delegates

There are 36 black delegates at the Republican convention here — fewer than 2% of the total and a sharp drop-off from 2004, a think tank reports.

The GOP record was set with 6.7% black delegates in 2004.

The Democratic Party, which has targets for minority representation, said a record 24.5% of delegates at its convention last week were black. That's about twice the percentage of blacks in the U.S. population, according to the Census Bureau.

Joanna Burgos, a spokeswoman for the GOP convention, said 13% of delegates this year are minorities. She said that's double the total in 1996, and "we look forward to continuing and expanding these relationships."

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which specializes in black issues and released the report, said Republican John McCain likely will end up with a historically low share of the black vote despite his outreach to groups such as the NAACP.

The chief reasons, the group said, are Democratic nominee Barack Obama's enormous appeal to black voters and McCain's "association with President Bush, an exceptionally unpopular figure" among blacks.

The report said McCain also is hurt because his home state of Arizona has few blacks and there are no well-known black elected officials to make his case.

GOPAC Chairman Michael Steele, whose group helps elect Republicans to state and local office, said the black community "has to get out of the mind-set that anything the Republican Party says is bad for them." But Steele, who is black, also said that "black folks aren't going to flock to the GOP unless they have something to flock to." He said his party should build coalitions and relationships with black voters.

One black convention delegate, Robert Smith of Little Rock, said he was amused but not surprised at the tiny number of blacks. He said he is on a personal mission to win back blacks he says are "voting for Barack Obama out of ethnicity rather than principle." If he's successful, he said, "this will be the last time you see so few" blacks at a GOP convention.