What could Mitt Romney possibly gain by speaking to the NAACP? He probably won’t gather one vote from the attendees there or change one opinion. Most black voters will stick with him no matter what. They identify with Obama and that’s that.
So why did Romney bother? The answer is that the NAACP was not the audience he was addressing. Yes, they were the ones in the room. But Romney knows other Americans’ reactions could give him some more votes.
First, people will give him credit for even bothering. Most of us realize the black vote is locked solid, so Romney appears to be the generous, open one while his opponents look small. Ditto on the booing. Everyone has a fear of public speaking and we all tend to sympathize with someone being booed. Romney took it in stride and kept going.
Secondly, the speech gave reassurance to skeptics who feel Romney might not be solidly opposed to repealing the Affordable Care Act. Romney called it Obamacare which is what it is. He pointed out how it will hurt business and did not back down when he was booed.
The National Journal wrote:
With the critical eyes of the political world resting squarely upon him, Romney marched defiantly into the lion’s den and delivered a speech that was direct, assertive and dispassionate. Undaunted, the man seeking to unseat the nation’s first African-American president stood calmly before a group of his most fervent supporters and informed them that he, not Obama, is the one they’ve been waiting for.
[R]omney promised to repeal the president’s health care law — casually referring to it as “Obamacare.” The audience didn’t like that, and they let Romney hear their displeasure, raining down boos on the Republican nominee. Romney appeared taken aback by the crowd’s response, and for a few fleeting moments, it looked as if the Romney campaign’s fear of an embarrassing episode would be realized.
Then something happened. Romney, often mocked for his robotic style and lack of nimbleness, stepped away from his script and succinctly explained his opposition to the Affordable Care Act: Business owners say it makes them less likely to hire new employees, he said. Romney then sought to reassure the skeptical crowd of his commitment to health care policies that protect society’s most vulnerable and and provide effective care to those who need it.
The incident served as a microcosm of the broader occasion, one that revealed a different side of Romney. He easily could have played it safe in Houston, sticking to civil-rights issues and issuing abstract rebukes of Obama’s economic and education policies. But he didn’t. Instead, he went all-out, forcefully denouncing Obama’s job performance and criticizing a law he knew had support among the Obama-friendly audience….
He spoke with aggravated empathy about the African-American unemployment rate reaching 14 percent. He hammered the issue of job creation, arguing that Obama’s economic policies have disproportionately harmed minorities. And he expertly used education reform as a wedge between the president and his supporters in the audience, earning sustained applause when arguing that “candidates cannot have it both ways” — i.e., Obama must choose between advancing education reforms and protecting teachers’ unions.
It was a fine performance, one that delivered a distinct message to observers of all political stripes. Democrats saw a candidate who embraced adversity and wasn’t afraid to mix it up. Republicans saw a candidate who was quick on his feet and took a punch without falling down. And independents saw a candidate who isn’t the “extremist” or “panderer” his opponents portray him to be.
Ace of Spades said:
Hacks for the NAACP are slamming his appearance — some claiming he “patronized” them, others angry he refused to patronize them — and deeming it just a big darned strategic error to even show up.
Which makes me think that it wasn’t an error at all, but a hit plus a stolen base for good measure.
No matter what your politics, no one has much bad to say about straight-shooting or showing some stones.
Back in 2000, I think, George W. Bush made a play for black votes, and an analyst said, “The play was superficially for black votes, but in reality it was for independent but liberal-ish white votes.” The sort of people for whom the never-ending shriek of “racist!” still has meaning. By reaching out to blacks, this line of reasoning went, Bush was actually reaching out to non-black voters who were persuadable, but would not vote for anyone the media successfully depicted as a racist.
And that’s not to say Romney won’t get black votes, either. In 2004, 18 percent of black voters were at least entertaining the idea of voting for Bush, and a percentage there and a percentage there and suddenly you’re talking about an election.
One good thing: I’ve been worried about Romney’s tendency to get lock-jawed with a ghastly fake grin when he feels sharply criticized. He seems to have avoided that response. Oh, he still had some faint sort of smile through much of the booing, but it was more like the Competitive Smile you see jocks get when they know they’re up against it. Like, Okay, let’s deal with this.
It’s a shame the black vote is so monolithic. It hurts them most of all. Wouldn’t it be smarter to try to get candidates to win their vote rather than just donating it? I don’t see that the black community has benefitted at all from their liaison with the Democrats. It’s like some kind of relationship addiction. Some realize they are being used, but can’t give it up. What a shame.