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Bush talks up plans with black leaders

Cites lifespan data on Social Security

WASHINGTON -- President Bush told black leaders yesterday that his plan to add private accounts to Social Security would benefit blacks because they tend to have shorter lives than some other Americans and end up paying in more than they get out.

Social Security was one of many issues that came up during Bush's private meeting with 14 clergy and 10 leaders from business and nonprofit groups.

Exit polls in November's election showed that Bush received just 11 percent of the black vote, a slight increase over the 9 percent he received four years earlier.

Bush and his strategists believe that any advances on minority voting blocs could make the difference in close elections.

Bush planned to meet today with the Congressional Black Caucus, a group of 43 Democrats. The caucus had an adversarial relationship with Bush in his first term, but Representative Melvin Watt, Democrat of North Carolina and the group's new chairman, said members are hoping to find common ground with Bush in his new term.

Many people at the meeting with Bush yesterday were the president's political supporters. Attendees said Bush promised more trade with Africa and support for home and business ownership by blacks. They also said his supporters in the room praised Bush for opening federal dollars to churches and religious organizations and encouraged him to push for a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

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