Amidst reluctant clapping and several moments of loud booing, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney weathered a 25 minute speech at the NAACP national conference Wednesday morning as he outlined his platform for the November elections.
Knowing the uphill battle he'd face in front of a voting block that overwhelmingly supported President Barack Obama in 2008, Romney tread lightly at first, praising the organist who played during his introduction. "I have to tell you, I do love listening to that organ music. Hearing 'Sweet Hour of Prayer' earlier was a wonderful thing," Romney said in a manner vaguely reminiscent of his awkward "trees are the right height" ramble in February.
“If you want a president who will make things better in the Africa n-American community, you are looking at him," Romney said, setting off a batch of boos and hisses.
"I appreciate the chance to speak first, even before Vice President Biden will get his turn tomorrow. I just hope the Obama campaign doesn't think you're playing favorites," Romney joked before getting down to business and explaining how he aims to "represent all Americans of every race, creed or sexual orientation, from the poorest to the richest and everyone in between."
After discussing a congratulatory phone call he received from the president after securing the Republican nomination, Romney slowly worked his way into more and more controversial terrain, starting with a mild attack on Obama's economic policies and his opposition to gay marriage — which remains a somewhat contested issue within the NAACP in spite of the organization's continued efforts to reach out to the LGBT community.
Romney first round of boos came with the mention of health care.
"I'm going to eliminate every non-essential, expensive program I can find, that includes Obamacare, and I'm going to work to reform and save," he explained before getting cut off by the rumbling crowd. Romney cited a Chamber of Commerce study noting that the Affordable Care Act would cut job growth and vowed to replace the the heath care law.
Moving onto Medicare and Social Security, he managed to garner a bit of applause before setting off another batch of hisses and verbal objections after slamming the president fiscal matters.
The third round of boos came after this doozy:
“If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him . . . You take a look."
After his discussion of education met considerably less disdain, Romney offered an olive branch to an audience growing dizzy from all its eye-rolling.
"In both [political] parties there have been men and women of integrity, decency and humility who've called injustice by its name. For every one of us, a particular person comes to mind . . . For me that man is my father, George Romney." After the world's longest 10 seconds, a few people in the crowd started to clap.
Really, Mitt? You stand in front of the NAACP and the only person you can think of who's "called injustice by its name" is your dad — the 43rd governor of Michigan?
After the speech, attendees seemed relatively impressed that Romney was bold enough to speak at the convention while running against the nation's first African-American president.
"I think he did his best, but he really threw his line in the water with that statement about Obamacare," laughed Oscar Eason, Jr., who serves as regional NAACP president for Alaska, Oregon and Washington. "It seems kind of ridiculous to do that at an NAACP conference."
"I certainly appreciate him being here at the conference," said Bailey Perkins from an NAACP chapter at Oklahoma City University, "but I don't feel there was a lot of sincerity behind what he was saying. It just felt like he was here for our votes and wouldn't enact any policies on our behalf."