Mitt Romney made a direct appeal to black voters at the NAACP convention in Houston on Wednesday, but he didn't get the hoped-for response. Though most of the GOP presidential candidate's address — in which he argued that Obama's economic policies had made life harder for black families — was met with polite applause, the crowd booed and hissed when Romney vowed to repeal ObamaCare, accused Obama of failing to create jobs, and said he, not Obama, would be the better president for the black community. (Watch a clip below). Romney is understandably concerned about Obama's huge lead among black voters — 92 percent to 2 percent, according to one new poll. But given how poorly Romney's pitch went over, was reaching out to the NAACP a bad idea?
This speech was a bust: "If the point is to gain votes," says Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice, Romney's approach to African Americans is clearly flawed, at least judging from this wrathful reception. If he's merely hoping to impress independents by showing that he's a reasonable guy willing to speak to all sorts of audiences, this speech was "likely a wash." And while conservatives will love this clip because it shows Romney is willing to go "into the lion's den," they're already on his side. No one wins.
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Romney's real audience wasn't even there: Swing voters will be impressed, says Peter Grier at The Christian Science Monitor. Even if Romney fails to pick up many minority votes, the speech was still worthwhile. An awful lot of white fence-sitters "may be reluctant to support a presidential candidate who appears uninterested in reaching out to blacks." Romney's direct appeal to the NAACP could win over moderates, and that could turn defeats into victories in critical, closely fought swing states.
"Mitt Romney addresses NAACP. How many black votes might he win?"
And converting voters takes time: A few hisses from one crowd is no reason to write off Romney's outreach efforts, says Dan Riehl at Riehl World View. Romney's "time as a missionary steeled him for the long, hard road of winning converts," and political converts are just as hard to court as religious ones. If Romney keeps plugging away, this could pay off, especially given how much Obama is banking on the big margin he has with black voters.
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