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The GOP Frontrunners Give the Finger to Black Voters

Steve Benen: They skipped the first ever GOP Black Voters Forum, so what were Giuliani, McCain, Thompson, and Romney doing last night?
 
 
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This post, written by Steve Benen, originally appeared on The Carpetbagger Report

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Last night, Morgan State University in Baltimore hosted a nationally televised debate for Republican presidential hopefuls, billed as the first ever tailored specifically to the concerns of the African-American community.

As has been widely reported, all of the top four GOP candidates decided not to show up. Event organizers left podiums on the stage for them, just in case they had a change of heart, but Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Fred Thompson, and Mitt Romney all said they had better things to do with their time.

They've been taking quite a bit of heat for their absence, even from fellow Republicans. Newt Gingrich had called their decisions an "enormous error" and "fundamentally wrong," and had said the scheduling excuses were "baloney"; Former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman urged the candidates to reconsider; and former vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp said their decisions make it seem as though Republicans do not want black votes.

But the field's second- and third-tier candidates really let Frudy McRomney have it on stage.

"I apologize for the candidates who aren't here. I think it's a disgrace that they aren't here," Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.), a presidential hopeful, told the audience. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry to you and I'm sorry to those who are watching that they are not here."

Asked before the debate whether he accepted his rivals' claims of scheduling conflicts, Brownback said, "If it was a high enough priority, it would get on the schedule."

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, another candidate who made the trip, called the situation "embarrassing" for his rivals. "We've come a long way, but we have a long way to go, and we don't get there if we don't sit down and work through issues," he told the appreciative crowd.

So, what were Giuliani, McCain, Thompson, and Romney doing last night?

They were raising more money.

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani is in California today, raising money and accepting the endorsement of former GOP governor Pete Wilson. The AP noted it was a "mixed blessing" for Giuliani "due to Wilson's hardline stand on illegal immigration," which was credited for "driving Hispanics from the GOP in California."

Sen. John McCain will be in New York City tonight, appearing in an "Exchange of Ideas" campaign event with top Reagan White House speechwriter Peggy Noonan.

Ex-senator Fred Thompson is at home in Tennessee tonight where he is also raising money.

Like Giuliani, former governor Mitt Romney is in California for a San Diego fundraiser.

Those who did show up did their best to connect with the audience.

Steve Benen is a freelance writer/researcher and creator of The Carpetbagger Report. In addition, he is the lead editor of Salon.com's Blog Report, and has been a contributor to Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, Crooks & Liars, The American Prospect, and the Guardian.