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NAACP Boos Romney's Pledge To Repeal Obamacare


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Nobody can accuse the audience at the NAACP convention of sitting quietly yesterday. Republican Mitt Romney attended that conference.

MONTAGNE: He said he's willing to come back next to address the civil rights group, which a past Republican president, George W. Bush, often declined to do. Romney also promised to repeal President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

INSKEEP: Romney's performance drew boos and some cheers, and a little music, as we're going to hear.

NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea spoke with audience members before and after the speech.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: In advance of Romney's speech yesterday, organ music filled the hall as the audience filed in. These are veterans of the civil rights movement; most are middle-aged and older. Convention delegates said they were pleased Romney accepted the invitation to speak.

Joe Brown heads an NAACP chapter in Pasadena.

JOE BROWN: I'll listen as intently as I would any other potential presidential candidate. I'm not saying that's going to change my vote, however. But at least I want to hear what he has to say.

GONYEA: Last election President Obama won 95 percent of the African-American vote. Given that, 64-year-old Woodie Rucker Hughes, from Riverside, California, gave credit to Romney for coming, calling it brave.

WOODIE RUCKER HUGHES: I was referring to the fact that he doesn't step out of his comfort zone. So this probably has a little bit of trepidation on his part. He doesn't know how we're going to receive him.

GONYEA: Hughes said she especially wanted Romney to address the GOP push for Voter ID laws, which many here see as a way to suppress the black vote.

HUGHES: I need for him to speak up and say I don't agree with that.

GONYEA: Romney took the stage. The reception was polite. As he spoke, there was occasional mild applause. He talked about himself as the candidate who can help the economy and bring more robust job growth. There was some laughter mixed with boos when he made this claim.

MITT ROMNEY: If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him.


ROMNEY: You take a look.

GONYEA: Then there was this line about the president's health care law. Romney started by talking about the need to cut government spending.

ROMNEY: If our goal is jobs, we must, we have to stop spending over a trillion dollars more than we take in every year.


ROMNEY: And so, to do that, I'm going to eliminate expensive non-essential programs I can find. That includes ObamaCare. And I going to work to reform and save...


GONYEA: The booing went on for a full 17 seconds.

Woodie Rucker Hughes was not impressed by the speech. Remember, she's the one who called Romney brave for coming. She didn't like that he completely ignored the issue of Voter ID laws. And...

HUGHES: He misread us in regards to ObamaCare. And I wish that he could be more in tune. But I guess he can't be. I mean, he's so far removed.

GONYEA: If people had expected Romney to soften positions where he's been at odds with black voters, they were wrong; prompting discussion here that his real plan was to be seen talking tough to this audience, as a way to appeal to conservative voters in battleground states.

At this point, energizing the GOP base is probably far more important to Romney than trying to win votes from African-Americans. But the appearance also allows him to say his campaign is reaching out to diverse groups. And if the speech itself led to some awkward moments inside the convention hall, Romney, speaking on Fox News last night, seemed very pleased. He said he expected to get booed.

ROMNEY: But, you know, I'm going to give the same message to the NAACP that I give across the country; which is that ObamaCare is killing jobs. And if jobs is the priority, then we're going to have to replace ObamaCare with something that actually holds down health care costs.

GONYEA: The NAACP convention concludes today when the delegates get a much different take on the health care law. And no doubt some strong reaction to Romney's remarks, in a speech from Vice President Joe Biden.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Houston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.

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