NYT's Parker on Black Voters 'Suspicious of Mr. Romney’s Record on Civil Rights and Diversity'

Republican candidate Mitt Romney received a predictably mixed reception at the NAACP's annual convention in Houston on Wednesday, giving New York Times reporter Ashley Parker an easy target: "To Boos and Polite Applause, Romney Speaks to the N.A.A.C.P."

Parker emphasized the "cackles and boos" he received for his criticism of Obama-Care, and even used Romney's father, the late Michigan Gov. George Romney, to dismiss his record on "civil rights and diversity."

Less than four years after President Obama swept into the White House with the overwhelming support of the black community, Mitt Romney appeared Wednesday before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People with a bold claim: “If you want a president who will make things better in the African American community, you are looking at him,” Mr. Romney said.

His assertion was met with cackles and boos -- as well as some tepid applause -- and was emblematic of his entire speech, in which he tried to appeal to the African-American community, while still offering some tough medicine and policy prescriptions unpopular with the group.

In his roughly 25-minute speech at the N.A.A.C.P.’s annual convention in Houston, Mr. Romney promised to fight teachers’ unions and repeal the president’s health care plan, both positions that are unpopular with the black community.

When he said would “eliminate every non-essential expensive program I can find, that includes Obamacare,” the crowd began to boo --the first of several instances of vocal disagreement -- as Mr. Romney grinned nervously and deviated slightly from his prepared remarks, as he tried to explain his position.


In May, Mr. Romney hired a consultant, Tara Wall, to help with outreach to black voters, and he also visited an inner-city charter school in West Philadelphia, where he was heckled. But his speech Wednesday marked his most pointed wooing of black voters this campaign, even as he offered a speech that was less conciliatory in tone that many in the crowd had expected.

Parker then took personal shots at Romney's Mormon church and his "civil rights" record, digging deep into Romney's record as Massachusetts governor and comparing Romney unfavorably to his father, who stood up to Barry Goldwater in 1964.

In recent national polls, Mr. Obama still overwhelming leads Mr. Romney among black voters, many of whom are suspicious of Mr. Romney’s record on civil rights and diversity, especially when he was the governor of Massachusetts. Upon taking office, for his instance, he eliminated the state’s Office of Affirmative Action. Mr. Romney is also a member of the Mormon church, which until 1978 barred blacks from entering the priesthood.

By contrast, Mr. Romney’s father, George Romney, a former governor of Michigan, was known for his aggressive stance on civil rights. The elder Mr. Romney refused to support Barry Goldwater in 1964 because he was worried about his extreme rhetoric and his campaign’s appeals to the Southern white segregationist vote, and he later used his perch as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development to try to integrate the suburbs.