NEW YORK – Ask Debra Bayron why she dislikes President Bush (search), and she sighs before firing off a list of reasons — the economy, the war, the soaring cost of health care.
"And he had the nerve, the audacity, to come here," the 44-year-old home health aide says of the Republican National Convention (search). "We'd been through a lot already. We've had enough. He should have gone to Texas."
New York has long been an overwhelmingly Democratic city, but Bayron's West Harlem (search) neighborhood leans so far left it threatens to fall off into the Hudson River. The neighborhood — home to the Apollo Theater and former President Clinton's office — has the highest ratio of Democrats to Republicans — nearly 19 to 1 — of any district in Manhattan.
In interviews around the predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood, people seemed highly skeptical of the convention taking place about five miles south, and many said they weren't paying attention at all.
"I don't think a lot of people are even aware of it," said Ron Jeffers, 50, who was handing out flyers on 125th Street for gospel theater shows. "People are busy just dealing with their lives — paying bills, paying their rent, dealing with the kids."
The most recent state figures, compiled in March, counted 61,131 registered Democrats and just 3,237 Republicans in Assembly District 70, which covers West Harlem, roughly 116th Street to 125th Street.
So a troop of Republicans attracted more than a few strange looks when they toured Harlem on Wednesday, stopping for lunch at the famous soul-food restaurant Sylvia's Also.
Louisiana alternate delegate Eustis Guillemet, perhaps recognizing he was in the heart of enemy territory, stood at his table and said proudly, "My vote is going to make a difference and put the president back into office."
Outside the restaurant, it was hard to find anyone who planned to use their vote the same way.
Rosie Adams Leland, 61, who set up shop on a busy West Harlem street corner to sell framed copies of poems she had written about God, said she had not forgiven the president for leading the nation into war with Iraq.
"He fooled the people," she said. "There's a lot of parents who have lost their children. And Bush doesn't care. All he cares about is getting re-elected."
West Harlem was once considered plagued by drugs and violence, but the 1990s saw crime rates drop. Many saw the opening of Clinton's office in 2001 as a signal of a renaissance in the neighborhood.
But the recession that followed hit the neighborhood hard, people here say. Many are quick to blame Bush.
"The economy is not too good now. Jobs are scarce," said A.J. Vega, a 28-year-old who works at a neighborhood Foot Locker store. "It seemed like Clinton got rid of our debt, and now we have huge debt again."
Republicans are so scarce here that some of them aren't really Republicans at all.
J.C. Rocwell, a poet, sheepishly confessed he was registered with the GOP — but only because he took a job as a poll worker several years ago, and the job listing called for a Republican.
While he agrees with the party on some issues, he is dismayed by Bush's approach to the war and by many Republicans' aversion to affirmative action.
"I'm a product of the '60s," he said. "And as I was growing up I saw this discrimination. As a black man, I was affected by that. So affirmative action is a big issue. It's a big issue to a lot of people here."