Romney Booed at NAACP. Should Romney be Booed Everywhere?
(CBS News) Addressing a
predominantly black audience for just the second time on the campaign
trail, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on
Wednesday took his message to the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), delivering a speech that was
received with mixed response -- including multiple instances of
The candidate, whose remarks signaled a
commitment to making inroads to black voters, stressed in his speech
that he's not "presuming" anyone's support. Particularly emphasizing his
commitment to improving America's education system, the former
Massachusetts governor outlined a five-point plan for growing the
economy and creating jobs.
As he usually does in such speeches,
Romney underscored his commitment to repealing Mr. Obama's health care
plan as part of his strategy to turn the economy around.
create jobs, he said, "I am going to eliminate every non-essential
expensive program I can find. That includes Obamacare." His comments
were met with extended boos from the audience.
was also booed when he told the largely black audience that "if you
want a president who will make things better in the African-American
community, you are looking at him."
Despite some resistance among
the crowd, Romney emphasized to the audience his belief that "if you
understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully
communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of
African-American families, you would vote for me for president."
He also invoked mention of his father, the former governor of Michigan, for his involvement in the civil rights movement.
wasn't just that my dad helped write the civil rights provision for the
Mass - excuse me - Michigan Constitution, though he did," Romney said.
"It wasn't just that he helped create Michigan's first civil rights
commission, or that as governor he marched for civil rights in Detroit -
though he did those things, too. More than these public acts, it was
the kind of man he was, and the way he dealt with every person, black or
white. He was a man of the fairest instincts, and a man of faith who
knew that every person was a child of God."
Despite the largely
positive tone of his speech, Romney did take a dig at Mr. Obama, who
declined to attend the conference this year, sending Vice President Joe
Biden in his place.
"I can't promise that you and I will agree on
every issue. But I do promise that your hospitality to me today will be
returned," he said. "And if I am elected president, and you invite me
to next year's convention, I would count it as a privilege, and my
answer will be yes."
Mr. Obama's campaign did not immediately
respond to a query about his decision to skip this year's convention,
but he will speak at the National Urban League's 2012 conference on July
Robert Bess, a Democrat from Alabama who attended the
speech, told CBS News he found little in Romney's speech that was
relevant to his life.
"I thought he was very careful - and as he
should be - with his words. I thought that it didn't really cover
anything that, to me, was relevant," said Bess, who plans to vote for
Mr. Obama. "I thought it was a typical political speech that said,
'Well, I gotta go here because I gotta do the right thing, but I'm going
to be safe."
Precious Byrd, another attendee at the convention,
said Romney had "some points" but that she still planned to vote for Mr.
"I think it's pretty bold for him to come here to do a
presentation," she told CBS News. "But, you know, he tried. He doesn''t
have my vote. I don't really believe in some of the things that he
says. And there''s too many things out there that I think are really too
questionable to invest in his being our next President.""
lead-up to Romney's speech, J.C. Watts, a former Republican congressman
and currently the chairman of the consulting firm J.C. Watts Companies,
expressed similar skepticism as to the significance of Romney's remarks.
"With all due respect to Governor Romney, he's probably doing it to check the box," Watts told CBS News on Tuesday.
"Having a Republican candidate speak at the NAACP convention is like
trying to build a house starting at the roof. If you don't have a
foundation, the roof isn't going to stand."
Michael Steele, who
served as the RNC's first black chairman from 2009 to early 2011,
expressed a deep frustration with the party for failing, in his eyes, to
adequately invest in building up African-American constituencies in the
last couple of years. Instead of pounding the pavement in new
communities and putting forth black candidates, he argues, "they've
thrown up a website and put some black faces on it."
five months before the presidential election that they're concerned
with getting the black vote -- but what about the three years in
between?" he wondered, in a Tuesday interview with CBS News.
"If the party is serious about not becoming irrelevant by 2016, then
get off your ass and engage the people. Address the problems and
concerns in an unfiltered way. Have an honest moment in which you
recognize where you're falling short, and put on the table your
willingness to grow."
Following Romney's remarks Wednesday
morning, the NAACP released a statement saying it was "glad" the GOP
candidate addressed the convention -- but criticizing the content of his
"While we are glad that Governor Romney recognized
the power of the black electorate, he laid out an agenda that was
antithetical to many of our interests," said NAACP President Benjamin
Todd Jealous in a statement.
In an interview to appear
tonight at 8 PM ET on FOX Business Network's (FBN) Cavuto, Romney told
anchor Neil Cavuto that he "expected" the crowd at the convention to
respond negatively to his comments about repealing health care, but
insisted that "While we disagree on some issues like Obamacare, a lot of
issues we see eye to eye."
He maintained that he aims to "chip away" at Mr. Obama's lead among black voters.
president has not been able to get the job done," he said. "People want
to see someone who can get this economy going. I expect to get African
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