Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney shakes hands with Robert Lydia of the national board of directors of the NAACP at the NAACP National Convention in Houston. (Photo by Eric Kayne/Getty Images)
Former Gov. Mitt Romney enthusiastically addressed the 103rd convention of the NAACP today in Houston, receiving a warm response from delegates in attendance. Early in his speech the governor stated his hope “to represent every American of every creed, race and sexual orientation.” The line drew strong applause from the audience and set the tone for the morning.
Romney explained that he has a background working across party lines with all people, pointing to his time in Massachusetts as an indication of how he hoped to win in November: “In a state with 11 percent Republican registration, you don’t get there by just talking to Republicans. We have to make our case to every voter. We don’t count anybody out, and we sure don’t make a habit of presuming anyone’s support. Support is asked for and earned — and that’s why I’m here today.”
The former governor took direct aim at one of the main premises of President Obama’s campaign: that he is running to help the rich. He countered, saying, “the rich will do just fine whether I am elected or not,” and pledging to help those who are middle class and those who want to join the middle class.
Recalling his 25 years of success in business, Romney outlined five steps to bring jobs back to the U.S.: support U.S. energy production, increase fair and free trade, reduce government spending, nurture the next generation and restore economic freedom. During his litany on how to cut spending, Romney mentioned his plan to repeal Obamacare. At that point, Romney got a round of boos from the audience and the tone in the room changed dramatically. Taken by surprise, he mentioned surveys from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that show many businesses refuse to hire based on the implications of the health care law.
Romney outlined his work with the Black caucus of the Massachusetts legislature in improving education in Massachusetts. “If you want a president that will make things better in the African-America [community], you are looking at him.”
He continued pointing to the success in raising standards in Massachusetts, including a scholarship program that gives the top 25 percent of all high school graduates of that state tuition-free access to all Massachusetts public institutions of higher education.
Romney repeatedly quipped about President Obama’s absence from this year’s convention, pledging that he would attend next year’s convention as president, if invited. These lines got strong applause from delegates.
In closing, Romney pointed to his father’s historic civil rights work in Michigan, marching with civil rights leaders and as Secretary of HUD during the Nixon administration as the most important influence for him in areas of race relations. The former governor continued saying it was his father’s believe in God that led to his family’s belief that all men and women are created equally.
Reaction to the speech was mixed. Dr. Amos Brown, chair of the San Francisco NAACP branch, was particularly insulted by the Romney’s support of traditional marriage among a man and woman, saying, “We live in a democracy not a theocracy,” and people can and should do what they want in their churches regardless of the nation’s laws.
Sonia Hadley of Indiana noted that provisions of the Affordable Care Act “benefit our community and even many of my white friends without insurance.”
Although she was not against Romney before the speech, Hadley says his plans to repeal the health care act only solidified her support for President Obama.
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