Romney’s Speech to NAACP Draws Boos From Audience
Mitt Romney’s speech before the nation’s oldest civil rights organization Wednesday was meant as an olive branch to the black community, but his sharp criticisms of President Barack Obama and a vow to repeal his rival’s health care plan drew sustained boos and a chilly reception from the audience of black voters.
Romney’s message was aimed at a larger audience beyond the Houston convention hall - independent and moderate voters particularly. But the tone of his speech still surprised many attendees at the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, many of whom had praised him beforehand for making an appearance. As they left the hall, a number of voters said the former Massachusetts governor’s statements energized them to work for Obama’s re-election campaign this year.
Though Romney’s late father George was a forceful advocate for civil rights as governor of Michigan, Romney has campaigned in front of predominantly white audiences for much of this year, with the exception of a visit to a west Philadelphia charter school and the occasional address to a Latino audience. The candidate and his campaign have acknowledged that they have an uphill challenge in wooing black voters, who overwhelmingly supported Obama’s historic candidacy in 2008.
The audience initially welcomed the unofficial Republican nominee with a standing ovation and applauded when he promised to represent “all Americans of every race, creed and sexual orientation,” and noted that “old inequities persist” even a half-century after the civil rights movement.
But murmurs of disagreement rippled through the crowd early on when he argued that his policies would help “families of any color more than the policies and leadership of President Obama.” When he added that he would reduce spending, in part, by eliminating “non-essential, expensive programs” like the president’s health care plan, the audience booed for 15 seconds. And when Romney harshly criticized the president for failing to create jobs and “better educate tomorrow’s workers,” he appeared to have punctured much of the good will that was initially directed his way.