Does Mitt Romney really understand the needs of Black voters? NAACP leaders say that his keynote address yesterday at the NAACP Annual Convention in Houston was "appreciated," but it reveals the presidential candidate's significant disconnect with the Black population and its needs.
"While we are glad that Gov. Romney recognized the power of the Black electorate, he laid out an agenda that was antithetical to many of our interests," said NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous in a statement. He particularly noted Romney's stance to eliminate President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, legislation that could potentially improve gaps in racial inequities in healthcare.
NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock made similar statements, adding Romney's opposing viewpoints on education reform and marriage equality, but she noted that the NAACP "appreciate[s] that he … took the opportunity to speak with us directly."
During his speech, Romney received moments of applause on economic matters but was booed at length three times by audience members: when he announced he would fight to repeal the Affordable Care Act; when he said Obama hasn't done enough for the economy; and when he said he would be the president to improve the lives of Blacks, according to a report by ABC News.
Romney told news sources during a post-event interview that he had expected the strong negative reactions: "I am going to give the same message to the NAACP that I give across the country, which is that Obamacare is killing jobs, and if jobs is the priority, then we're going to have to replace it with something that actually holds down healthcare costs, as opposed to causing more spending for the government and more spending for American families."
Vice President Joe Biden also addressed the NAACP, offering a rebuttal to Romney. He defended Obama and highlighted how working families would rather suffer under more conservative policies from a Romney administration, in particular those of the Black community.
Biden called NAACP members to action: "I believe this election will come down to character, conviction and vision. And it will not surprise you—I don't think it's even a close call … time for the NAACP to do what it's always done ... To stand up. Make our case. Stand our ground. And make real our vision for America."
The speech follows suit with Biden's address earlier this week at the annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) conference. Both Romney and Obama were invited to speak at the event, but neither candidate attended. Romney sent his top Latino adviser, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.
Gutierrez, however, was not able to speak at the conference. The Romney campaign did not respond to NCLR leaders in time, and they "were no longer accepting surrogate speakers on the schedule" when the RSVP was received.
NCLR leaders say Romney's declined attendance was a "missed opportunity to work with a key organization that is connected to Latino voters from across the country," NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía told VOXXI.
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