At a Monitor-hosted lunch with reporters on Monday in Tampa, Fla., House Speaker John Boehner was asked how Republicans could continue to win elections if the party did not do more to appeal to Hispanic and African-American voters.
Reports of what he said varied widely.
Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times reported that Boehner admitted his party’s problems with minorities and thought a sour economy would cause minority voters to stay away from the polls, hurting both parties.
A more inflammatory report came from The Atlantic Wire, whose headline said that “Boehner Says Out Loud He Hopes Blacks and Latinos 'Won't Show Up' This Election.” The Atlantic Wire, which did not attend the lunch, cited a report on Talking Points Memo, a political news site known for a liberal editorial voice.
But Mr. Boehner never used the word “hope.” Here is what he did say, and the context for it.
At the lunch session, Stephanie Kirchgaessner of the Financial Times noted that the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll had Mitt Romney receiving zero percent support from African-American voters.
“Can the Republican Party continue to win general presidential elections if they don’t appeal to more voters than they are today in terms of nonwhite voters,” she asked.
Boehner replied: “You know we’ve never done well with those groups. But think about who this economic downturn has affected the most: blacks, Hispanics, young people. Fifty percent of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. And I think our economic message in this election cycle will help us recruit more of those groups than we would have otherwise.”
He continued: “But I think it’s important for our party, if we’re going to be a national party, we’ve got to reach out. And that means showing up in their neighborhoods. It’s a tall order, but it can be done."
Ms. Kirchgaessner followed up by asking, “Has it happened so far? Is your party doing that right now?”
Boehner responded: “This election is about economics. These groups have been hit the hardest. And they may not show up and vote for our candidate, but I suggest to you that they won’t show up and vote for the president, either.”