Hey, one Presidential candidate cared enough about the African-American vote to show up to the NAACP’s annual convention in this election year. Too bad it wasn’t the Democrat. Wolf Blitzer delivered a scolding to Barack Obama for skipping the convention, especially after Mitt Romney’s standing-in-the-lion’s-den speech reaffirming his commitment to improving the lives of all Americans through conservative policies, and particularly because it doesn’t look like Obama had any other pressing items on his schedule:
BLITZER: Here is something I’d like to say to President Obama: You should have attended the NAACP convention in Houston today. Mitt Romney did. It was the right thing to do. The Republican knows the nation’s oldest civil-rights group isn’t exactly friendly turf but went anyway. On the whole, got a polite reception, but was booed when he said this:
ROMNEY [from videotape]: “I’m going to eliminate every nonessential expensive program I can find, that includes Obamacare.”
BLITZER:Despite the boos, it was a smart political move for Mitt Romney to address the NAACP. He knows he is not going to win over a lot of black voters, but attending these kinds of events is important in reassuring a lot of the suburban white voters that he is a moderate, decent politician, someone that wants to work with all Americans.
I’m surprised the president was a no-show. He is sending Vice President Joe Biden, will send a video. I checked the president’s schedule for today. He is here in Washington, D.C., over at the White House. He’s got meetings. I assume those meetings are very important. but he could have found time to pay his respects to the NAACP. The president should not take the African-American vote for granted.
Let’s not be under any illusions. He received 95% of the black vote four years ago. He’ll do almost as well this time around for sure. But his problem is voter turnout. The president needs excitement, he needs enthusiasm in the African-American community, especially in the battleground states he carried in 2008. Fewer African-Americans may go to the polls this time. They might not vote for Romney, but might not show up, especially now that black unemployment has risen to 14.4%. It’s a lot higher than the 8.2% for all Americans. So in my opinion, the president missed an opportunity today.
My bottom line is this: Romney did the right thing on this day, the president did not. Now some folks will disagree with me, Kate. That’s just me offering my sense of what’s going on.
Kathryn Jean Lopez, who provided the transcript, said that the boos seem to galvanize Romney, who ended up delivering a strong enough speech to garner some respect from the crowd, if not support:
Mitt Romney gave a quality speech, with confidence, to a group that’s not exactly debating its endorsement. And, once he was booed, he hit some kind of stride. I harbor no delusions about Romney running away with the black vote, but maybe, just maybe, he made some progress there today … And he was just a little Romney unleashed. If he keeps this up, he might just be our next president.
I doubt that Romney intended to switch many votes in this audience, either, nor do I think it’s even possible in this election for Romney to make any inroads in the African-American vote. It is possible, though, for Obama to lose enthusiasm and turnout in this demographic for exactly the reasons Blitzer mentions: high unemployment, no policies to address failing cities, and a sense that Obama can’t be bothered to pay attention to this most loyal of all Democratic Party constituencies. That won’t turn African-American voters into Laffer Curve conservatives — not overnight, anyway — but it may have some of those voters who turned out enthusiastically in 2008 staying home out of indifference in 2012.
It’s a big mistake for Obama to skip this appearance, especially since it’s likely to be the friendliest audience he’s going to face all year. As I note in my column for The Fiscal Times, it’s not the only mistake Obama’s making. It might be easier to pick out what Obama’s doing right at the moment, if you can pick anything out at all:
On top of that, the attack on offshoring ended up snagging Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader. Matt Lewis at the Daily Caller found that Pelosi had disclosed a profit of between $1 million and $5 million from an investment in Matthews International Capital Management LLC, which proclaims in its literature to have “A Singular Focus on Investing in Asia.” Its website, Lewis found, also has an essay dated last week – when the Obama campaign began to attack Romney for “outsourcing” – that urged investors to look to the Philippines for cheaper labor, as Pixar did when producing the film The Incredibles. Pelosi also had a smaller investment in Moduslink Global, one of the firms that Bain backed, and which Team Obama attacked as an “outsourcing pioneer.”
The clumsy and self-defeating attacks only draw attention once again to a stunning lack of competence in Obama’s campaign – and Obama’s lack of a positive agenda for re-election. With the economy sliding backwards and after three straight disappointing jobs reports, the president cannot point to any success in his stewardship of the US economy. Despite his legal victory last month on ObamaCare, his signature legislative achievement remains so unpopular that Obama and his surrogates want to change the subject whenever anyone asks about it.
All Obama can do is to attempt to exploit divisions by demonizing higher income earners and paint Romney as a vampire capitalist, and hope that Romney’s wealth will frighten voters enough to distract from Obama’s failures and lack of any new ideas. Even when Obama can outspend Romney, the polls show he can’t sell that strategy – and four more months of economic stagnation will only make his desperation more apparent.
Romney’s well on his way to financial parity with Team Obama, if not financial supremacy. When that happens, Obama will long for the opportunity to speak to a friendly crowd with as much media attention as he’s passing up this week.