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So How Did CPAC’s ‘Minority Outreach’ Panel Go?

So How Did That CPAC 'Minority Outreach' Panel Go?

Aside from top-billed speeches from the likes of Gov. Chris Christie and Donald Trump, there was one Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) event that drew some media attention on Thursday: A panel discussing methods of Republican outreach to minorities.

The panel event, entitled “Reaching Out: The Rest of the Story,” included former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie and GOP strategists Jason Roe, Elroy Sailor, and Robert Woodson.

TPM reporter Daniel Strauss observed a tense moment when Woodson slammed a fellow panelist’s suggestion that Democrats beat Republicans at minority outreach because they have “goodies” to offer:

“It’s not goodies,” Woodson said. “It bothers me that people assume that lower income respond to gifts —food stamps or thing that will be given to them.”

“Nobody wants to be dependent so let’s assume that people want a hand up and not a hand down,” Woodson added.

Brookings Institute fellow John Hudak was also in attendance and had positive things to say about the conversation:

The advice was solid. Woodson explained that one problem is that “we don’t have a ground game” particularly in minority neighborhoods. Sailor eloquently noted a key to Republican success: “We don’t have to abandon our existing friends to make new ones.” The message was simple. Republicans don’t necessarily have to change their values. They have to change how they talk about the issues and who they talk to. That takeaway is not a tall order, but something doable, something digestible. And, most notably, there are people in the party who know how to do it.

However, Hudak noted, the panel fell mostly on deaf ears:

“About ten minutes into the panel, I snapped a photo (shown above) of a largely empty ballroom,” Hudak wrote. “The lack of attendance for the panel is a huge loss and missed opportunity for participants.”

That emptiness changed eventually, however, when the panel ran over its allotted time and into the slot designated for NRA executive Wayne LaPierre‘s big first-day closing remarks. People reportedly filed into the event space as Gillespie, et al, continued the latter portion of their discussion.

By comparison, LaPierre garnered a “rousing” response from the packed room with his Second Amendment-themed speech, leading Hudak to bemoan:

[T]herein lies the problem. Speaking to gun rights supporters is not the path to Republican success at the national level. Most ardent supporters of the 2nd Amendment find Democrats to be a threat and reliably vote Republican. Wayne LaPierre doesn’t change minds.

[…] The diversity panel is the path to the party being successful and making inroads into traditionally Democratic groups. If the GOP wants to see the Democratic Party struggle to elect a president, they should win 20% of the African American Vote or 50% of the Latino vote. Adding the votes of a few more gun rights supporters won’t make the difference in 2016 and 2020 and beyond.

UPDATE: Here’s video of that particularly tense moment, via Tommy Christopher:

[h/t TPM and Brookings]

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