GOP's Mehlman defends outreach to blacks with history

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The Republican Party chairman on Tuesday defended the GOP's outreach to black voters days after his Democratic counterpart questioned how he could make such an appeal in view of the Bush administration's tepid response to Hurricane Katrina. Ken Mehlman told the Waterbury, Conn.-chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that the "party of Lincoln and the African-American people have an incredible history together."

He dismissed criticism from Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, who questioned how Mehlman could appear before the group after the administration's much-criticized response to the hurricane's devastation.

Hard hit were predominantly poor and black neighborhoods in New Orleans, and thousands of blacks were left stranded at the city's convention center and Superdome for days without basic necessities.

"I'm shocked that he would have the nerve to show his face in front of any African-American organization after the way they treated those people in New Orleans," Dean told the Hartford Courant.

Mehlman answered back in his speech.

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