Opinion Brief

Was it a mistake for Obama to skip the NAACP conference?

The president passes up a chance to address a friendly crowd of black voters, potentially snubbing a key part of the Democratic base

Vice President Joe Biden was greeted with cheers at the NAACP convention in Houston this week. In the keynote address of the five-day gathering, Biden delivered a forceful defense of President Obama's health-care reform law and slammed Republicans pushing for new laws requiring IDs at the ballot box, which he said amounted to "voter suppression." The reception stood in stark contrast to the boos GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney received the day before, when he told the mostly African-American audience that he would repeal ObamaCare. But Romney scored points for having the courage to speak directly to such an overtly pro-Obama crowd, while some members of the civil rights group expressed disappointment that Obama, who cited a scheduling conflict, didn't show up in person, and grumbled that the president was taking their support for granted. Did Obama squander an opportunity to fire up some of his most ardent supporters by making a rousing appearance of his own?

Yes. Obama really blew it: "It's a big mistake for Obama to skip this appearance," says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. Romney's strong speech isn't going to turn black voters into conservatives. "It is possible, though, for Obama to lose enthusiasm and turnout" among African-Americans, due to high unemployment and the sense that he "can't be bothered to pay attention to this most loyal of all Democratic Party constituencies.""Video: Blitzer rips Obama for skipping NAACP convention"

And he could've rubbed a warm reception in Romney's face: Obama is "revving up other elements of his base — youths, gays, Latinos," says Molly Ball at The Atlantic, something he could also do with African Americans with zero "political downside." Obama's decision to back gay marriage could "alienate at least a few black voters," and this was a chance to reach out to them. If nothing else, contrasting "Obama's presumably warm reception with Romney's chilly one" would have been a feather in his cap."Why isn't Obama speaking to the NAACP?"

Relax. Biden was more than adequate as a stand-in: It's a foregone conclusion that African-American voters "will continue to vote in lockstep for the first black president," says Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. Yes, "enthusiasm matters," but Vice President Biden's "easy speech" and obvious rapport with the audience showed he was the right person for the job. Biden's "star turn in front of the NAACP" showed that he's a "pretty formidable cheerleader for a president who badly needs someone to pump up the crowd.""Biden's start turn at NAACP"

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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