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After King was assassinated in 1968, George Romney attended his funeral.
But while the Republican ticket badly needs to attract more black voters, for Romney to cite the experiences of his father or Ryan to discuss a black former girlfriend could easily attract claims of pandering.
He had been first to discover his father's lifeless body in bed after a heart attack just two years earlier - an experience that affected him profoundly.
His father's untimely death at just 55 not only cemented Ryan's well-documented life-long obsession with exercise, but also meant his college education was being funded by survivor's benefits paid to the teenager after the tragedy.
Slim but muscular, the 5ft 6ins Pope had her sights set on the cheerleading team of the college's Redhawks football team and was already equipped with the determination and discipline that making the cut required.
Miami University's current head cheerleading coach Cindi Byrge was an assistant coach at the time that Pope was pictured in the squad’s photo in 1992.
He told Milwaukee Magazine in 2005 that his political mentor the late Jack Kemp, who ran as the Republican vice-presidential candidate with Bob Dole against Bill Clinton and Al Gore in 1996 but was defeated, had ‘taught me a lot, too’ about broadening the Republican Party’s appeal to blacks.It was possible, she said, ‘to have a black friend, Asian friend, Hispanic friend or Muslim friend or wife and still exhibit prejudice toward that group’ because ‘the friend or wife is simply viewed as the exception who is not like the others.Writing in the New York Daily News, columnist Derek Hunter responded that this was ‘race-baiting’ and the fact that Ryan had once had a black girlfriend only mattered to ‘race-obsessed liberals’.After Ryan’s 2005 mention of a black ‘college sweetheart’ emerged last week in a tweet by CNN's Peter Hamby, the relationship was immediately examined for its political significance in the light of the low support for Republicans from minorities.In it, she stated that ‘having a relationship with someone of a different race does not automatically make someone more racially sensitive and enlightened’ and Ryan’s policies did not help black people.