-By Gene Demby
August 31, 2012- As the Republican National Convention drew to a close, Michael Steele, the party's former chair, said that his party needed to do a better job of outreach to communities of color, and that the rhetoric around voter ID laws was a detriment to those efforts.
The party offered plum prime-time speaking spots to people of color, including two well-received speeches from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. But Steele said that he was disappointed at the contrast between the podium and the delegates in attendance.
"There were a lot of people of color on the stage, but my problem is that there weren't any on the floor," Steele told The Huffington Post on Thursday. "That's where the rubber hits the road."
Only 47 of the 2,286 delegates at this year's convention, or 2 percent, were African American, according to a report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. That number is up from the party's 38 black delegates in 2008 (1.6 percent), but way down from the 85 and 167 who attended the convention in 2000 and 2004, respectively.
"The proof is in the numbers," Steele said.
Steele said that when he took over the Republican National Committee's helm in 2009, he tasked the organization with seeking out and grooming people of color to become delegates, local party officials and candidates for office. He said that since he left the chairmanship in 2011, he has flirted with the idea of starting a super PAC to train and support minority and women candidates, but has wanted to be sure that a party structure would support that goal. "You want to make sure you have more than Mia Love in a cycle," he said, referring to the Haitian-American congressional hopeful from Utah who spoke at the convention Tuesday night. "We were lucky to have a Tim Scott and Allen West."
"I hate this thing when you have one [person of color], and everybody just fixates on one — and the goal is to create many," said Steele.