Mitt Romney makes his pitch to the oldest civil-rights organization in the US today with a 9:30 speech to the NAACP at its annual convention. Republican presidential candidates usually make this one of the stops in election years, although Republican Presidents don’t usually return. George W. Bush skipped the convention in 2004 after attending in 2000, an appearance that was followed by an NAACP ad in that election cycle that tried to blame Bush for the dragging death of James Byrd in Texas for Bush’s opposition to “hate crime” legislation. (It’s worth noting that Byrd’s white-supremacist murderers got the death penalty for that despicable murder even without having “hate crime” laws on the books.)
The Washington Post reports that the appearance is part of an attempt by Team Romney to reach outside the GOP’s base:
The NAACP visit is the former Massachusetts governor’s attempt to move beyond the traditional Republican Party base by trying to deliver a message that the GOP is serious about attracting black voters.
Critics say the effort is pointless for his chances in November. Supporters say it is important for the future of the party.
Romney’s campaign began preliminary outreach efforts in May by hiring a senior black consultant to engage African American voters and by visiting a predominantly black charter school in Philadelphia. Campaign officials say those efforts will be expanded in the coming weeks in an effort to wrest as many votes as possible from President Obama.
“The governor is committed to competing in the black community. The odds are high, it’s challenging, but every percentage point that we chip away from President Obama counts,” said Tara Wall, who is consulting with the Romney campaign on outreach efforts. “There are shared values with this community around faith, family, free enterprise and education. He will highlight his record in terms of addressing health, wealth and disparity gaps and show clear distinctions between him and Obama.”
Romney will stick to the economy and avoid any divisive topics, the Daily Caller reports. In other words, don’t expect Romney to discuss Operation Fast and Furious today:
When asked if Romney plans to talk about any of the aforementioned issues during his Wednesday NAACP convention speech, though, campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul replied with just one word to The Daily Caller: “Economy,” she wrote.
Romney’s decision to avoid talking about anything but the economy when heading into a potentially unpleasant situation — like he’s doing by speaking to NAACP on the same stage as Holder spoke the day before, while refusing to address his criticism of him — is a campaign tactic that has drawn fierce criticism from conservatives as of late.
Does anyone really expect — or want — Romney to go to the NAACP and spend his time arguing that Holder should be fired? Please. That’s not an argument that Romney needs to make today — or actually any other day, at least not until voters engage on that topic. Darrell Issa is doing just fine in pursuing the civil contempt charge, as polls have already shown, and the GOP should stick to the legal strategy for now. Voters care about the economy, and every time Romney engages on other topics, he wastes an opportunity to hit Obama where he’s weakest.
Plus, the economy should be an even more important topic today. While Obama and Democrats claim to be happy to be adding jobs at a pace of 65,200 per month during the recovery, the topline jobless rate for African-Americans is 14.4%. That’s up from 13.0% just two months ago, and darned close to the 14.8% it was at the start of the recovery. That’s where Romney’s focus should be — and perhaps on school choice, the best opportunity for black children to escape failing urban school districts and have a better chance at economic success in the future.
We’ll add the speech later today. If we can find an embeddable live-video stream of the speech, we’ll add that as well.
Update: Yes, I screwed up the tag on the headline. Yes, I had already had my first cup of coffee. Obvious lesson: Time to move to a richer blend.
Team Romney released some excerpts from the prepared speech, and as I figured, Romney is sticking to the economy and school choice:
You all know something of my background, and maybe you’ve wondered how any Republican ever becomes governor of Massachusetts in the first place. Well, 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. …
… I believe that if you understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of African American families, you would vote for me for president. I want you to know that if I did not believe that my policies and my leadership would help families of color — and families of any color — more than the policies and leadership of President Obama, I would not be running for president. …
… I am running for president because I know that my policies and vision will help hundreds of millions of middle class Americans of all races, will lift people from poverty, and will help prevent people from becoming poor. My campaign is about helping the people who need help. The course the President has set has not done that – and will not do that. My course will.
When President Obama called to congratulate me on becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, he said that he, quote, “looked forward to an important and healthy debate about America’s future.” To date, I’m afraid that his campaign has taken a different course than that.
If someone had told us in the 1950s or 60s that a black citizen would serve as the forty-fourth president, we would have been proud and many would have been surprised. Picturing that day, we might have assumed that the American presidency would be the very last door of opportunity to be opened. Before that came to pass, every other barrier on the path to equal opportunity would surely have to come down.
Of course, it hasn’t happened quite that way. Many barriers remain. Old inequities persist. In some ways, the challenges are even more complicated than before. And across America — and even within your own ranks — there are serious, honest debates about the way forward.
If equal opportunity in America were an accomplished fact, then a chronically bad economy would be equally bad for everyone. Instead, it’s worse for African Americans in almost every way. The unemployment rate, the duration of unemployment, average income, and median family wealth are all worse for the black community. In June, while the overall unemployment rate remained stuck at 8.2 percent, the unemployment rate for African Americans actually went up, from 13.6 percent to 14.4 percent.
Americans of every background are asking when this economy will finally recover – and you, in particular, are entitled to an answer.
If equal opportunity in America were an accomplished fact, black families could send their sons and daughters to public schools that truly offer the hope of a better life. Instead, for generations, the African-American community has been waiting and waiting for that promise to be kept. Today, black children are 17 percent of students nationwide – but they are 42 percent of the students in our worst-performing schools.
When it comes to education reform, candidates cannot have it both ways – talking up education reform, while indulging the same groups that are blocking reform. You can be the voice of disadvantaged public-school students, or you can be the protector of special interests like the teachers unions, but you can’t be both. I have made my choice: As president, I will be a champion of real education reform in America, and I won’t let any special interest get in the way.
I will give the parents of every low-income and special needs student the chance to choose where their child goes to school. For the first time in history, federal education funds will be linked to a student, so that parents can send their child to any public or charter school, or to a private school, where permitted. And I will make that a true choice by ensuring there are good options available to all.
Should I be elected President, I’ll lead as I did when governor. I will look for support wherever there is good will and shared conviction. I will work with you to help our children attend better schools and help our economy create good jobs with better wages.