Feature

Why Romney spoke at the NAACP

Whenever presidential candidates decide to make a speech, a crass political calculation is involved.

Steve ChapmanChicago Tribune

Mitt Romney has no hope of winning over black voters, said Steve Chapman. And yet there he was last week at the NAACP’s national convention, getting booed for saying he would repeal “Obamacare.” Why did he go? To woo white voters, not blacks. Simply by showing up at the NAACP, Romney quietly “signaled his aversion to bigotry”—soothing white, suburban moderates whose votes he needs. And by inviting “a chorus of boos,” Romney simultaneously winked at the conservative base, which loathes the NAACP and duly applauded this “rare sighting of the Romney backbone.” But Romney is not alone in his cynicism. President Obama was also invited to speak to the NAACP, but declined. He knows he can count on more than 90 percent of the black vote anyway, and in an election year, “drawing attention to his complexion is a net liability.” Whenever presidential candidates decide to make a speech, in other words, a crass political calculation is involved. Sometimes, “the people they’re addressing are the ones who aren’t there.”

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