Bush Reaches Out

At a benefit dinner for the Congress of Racial Equality on Monday in New York City, George W. Bush spoke of some broad themes, emphasizing the need to ”make sure the American dream touches every willing heart.”

He demonstrated a two-prong approach in speaking to minority groups, touching on concerns they share with other Americans as well as addressing those issues that have greater impact in their communities.

The Texas governor also mentioned a program he would ask Congress to fund if he became president; a program that would provide mentors to children whose parents have been incarcerated.

The percentage of minorities in prison is much higher than that of caucasians. An April report from the Justice Department showed that among men in their 20s or early 30s, about 11 percent of blacks, 4 percent of Hispanics, and only 1.5 percent of white men were in prison or jail.

When speaking to the League of United Latin American Citizens in Washington earlier on Monday, Bush focused on immigration, a subject of major importance for many Hispanics.

His speech to them included a proposal to split the Immigration and Naturalization Service into two parts: a welcoming one for legitimate immigrants and a tough one for border enforcement.

Bush also called for allowing relatives of permanent residents to visit the United States while their own immigration papers are being processed.

”As I've said, family values should not stop at the Rio Grande River,” Bush said.

Bush has split from fellow Republicans in ways that could help him win favor with some Hispanics. While former California Gov. Pete Wilson backed measures such as Proposition 187, which sought to end government benefits for illegal immigrants, Bush advocated public education for undocumented immigrant children. He supports beefed-up border enforcement but believes in helping people already here.

He also spoke of the need to improve education, about making sure the power to shape children's education stayed on the state and local level.

”There are no second-rate children in America and no second-rate dreams,” Bush said.

Bush says he's ”a different kind of Republican,” and is working this week to convince voters with speeches to Hispanic and black audiences and promotion of welfare-to-work programs.

It isn’t too much of a stretch for at least one group Bush has reached out to: CORE is led by conservative black activist Roy Innis, and accepts the support of the National Rifle Association.

Bush has a decent record in his state for winning the minority vote. According to exit polls, when he first ran for governor of Texas in 1994, Bush won the support of 15 percent of black voters and 28 percent of Hispanic voters.

In 1998, when he was re-elected, exit polls showed the governor had the support of 27 percent of black voters, an improvement of 12 percentagpoints. Among Hispanics, he got almost half of the vote, an improvement of 21 points.