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Kerry Appeals for African-American Votes - 2004-07-15

Democratic presidential contender John Kerry has appealed for votes in a speech to a leading civil rights organization. President Bush declined a similar invitation to speak to the group based on what he regards as its hostile attitude toward his administration.

Mindful that African-Americans are among the most loyal voters in the Democratic Party, Senator Kerry appealed for support at the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Philadelphia.

Senator Kerry made note of President Bush's decision not to speak to the same convention because of what the president believes is a hostile attitude from the NAACP leadership.

"I will be a president who is truly a uniter, not one who seeks to divide one nation by race or riches or by any other label," said John Kerry. "And you know something, the president may be too busy to speak to you now, but I have news for you. He is going to have plenty of time after November 2 [Election Day]."

White House officials contend the NAACP, the nation's oldest civil rights group, long ago crossed the line of civility and partisanship by, among other things, referring to Mr. Bush as an illegal president.

Presidential spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters that Mr. Bush is proud to run for re-election on a record of racial inclusion.

"And he has a proven record of working to improve the quality of life for all Americans and a proven record of reaching out to all Americans," he said. "I think it really is disappointing to see the current [NAACP] leadership continue to repeat the hostile rhetoric that they have used, which really shows that they are not interested in a constructive dialogue."

Four years ago, Mr. Bush won about 10 percent of the black vote, while Democrat Al Gore carried the rest.

On another issue, White House officials say there is no truth to speculation that Vice President Dick Cheney might be dropped from the Republican presidential ticket.

In an interview with the C-SPAN public affairs network, the vice president said he has been assured that the president wants him on the ticket again this year.

"That I was the man he wanted in that post, not just as a candidate, but as somebody to be a part of the governing team," Mr. Cheney said. "And he has been very clear he does not want to break up the team."

William Schneider, a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, says the vice president remains very popular with conservative Republican voters.

"Clearly, the Republican base [conservative voters] loves Cheney and Bush has spent a lot of attention appealing to the Republican base," he said. "But more important than that is the fact that Cheney symbolizes the president's steadfastness in the war on terror."

Democrats are preparing to hold their national nominating convention at the end of this month in Boston. Republicans will gather in New York for their convention at the end of August.