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Romney speech to NAACP draws boos, raises questions on strategy


The following Reuters story appeared in several publications including the July 11, 2012, edition of the South Bend Tribune. Political Scientist Cal Jillson provided expertise for this story.

July 13, 2012

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was booed by a mostly African-American crowd on Wednesday, as a speech before a civil rights group became the latest episode to raise questions about his strategy in battling Democratic President Barack Obama.

Appearing before the annual convention of the NAACP - a group whose members are among Obama's strongest supporters - Romney gave what amounted to his standard campaign pitch, emphasizing his ability to create jobs.

Although several of his lines were greeted with applause, Romney drew waves of boos when he blasted Obama's record on jobs and the healthcare overhaul that was backed by the president and recently upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him," Romney told the crowd in a reference to the high unemployment among blacks - 14.4 percent, compared with the national average of 8.2 percent.

The comment prompted a smattering of boos....

Although Romney might have won admiration from conservatives and some black voters for his speech on Wednesday, the images of him being booed so lustily by the NAACP in Houston was not good for his campaign, said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Jillson said Romney's criticism of Obama and the healthcare law before black voters risked turning off independent voters who could decide the election.

"It's just a signal that Romney is tethered too far to the right when he goes in and gets booed by the NAACP," Jillson said.

"There is a moderate, suburban independent vote out there that has not made up its mind yet, and those folks probably don't want to see the pictures that will be on the evening news."...