Republican Mitt Romney told black voters during an important speech to the NAACP that his policies — not Barack Obama's — will better serve their families.
Romney gave the speech at the organization's annual convention in Houston as a way to show independent and swing voters that he's willing to reach out to diverse audiences — and demonstrate that both the Republican Party and his campaign are inclusive.
"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," Romney said. "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."
The presumptive GOP nominee also told his audience that his economic plans will lift people out of poverty and help keep people from becoming poor.
"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," Romney said.
Romney assured the group that he is committed to helping the economy, which will be a key issue among black voters this fall. It will not be easy to sway that group, which has traditionally voted a Democrat into the White House, and with President Obama having won 96 percent of the African-American vote in 2008.
Romney acknowledged in his speech that the economy is worse for African-American families.
"If equal opportunity in America were an accomplished fact, then a chronically bad economy would be equally bad for everyone," he said. "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."
Romney also focused on his support for education and touted the idea of educational choice.
"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," Romney said. "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."
Although his speech was mostly well-received, Romney was booed when he said he would work to repeal Obamacare, an awkward moment that forced him to regroup.
"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 — " Romney said before being interrupted for about 15 seconds.
"You know, there was a survey of the Chamber of Commerce, they carried out a survey of their members, about 1,500 surveyed, and they asked them what effect Obamacare would have on their plans, and three-quarters of them said it made them less likely to hire people," Romney said, going off-speech. "So I say, again, that if our priority is jobs, and that's my priority, that's something I'd change and replace."
The NAACP's convention has hosted GOP candidates before. George W. Bush spoke to the group before the 2000 election.
Obama addressed the group in 2008, as did John McCain. Vice President Joe Biden will address the convention on Thursday.
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