Was Romney’s NAACP Speech Almost Good?

He gave what could have been an effective speech -- but there were some things he failed to explain.

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

No Class

Plus, teacher pay isn’t a hypothetical. Romney’s best line was declaring of black children that “our society sends them into mediocre schools, then expects them to perform with excellence — and that’s simply not fair.” Schools and school choice resonate with African-American voters on both sides of the aisle.

But when that statement is contrasted with his recent comment that class isn’t an issue, and his flip-flop on Obama’s 2009 stimulus — which Romney himself initially called for and which plugged a teacher pay gap at state and local levels — he sounds as if he’s trying to have it both ways.

No Love

And the most poetic line in the speech was also its most hollow. Romney said that if only black voters “understood who I truly am in my heart … you would vote for me for president.” But he failed to alleviate — or even address — the concerns of African Americans who, regardless of politics, are put off by Romney’s ties with birth certificate conspiracy theorists like Donald Trump and Herman Cain.

Romney clearly understands the rhetoric. His concluding pledge that he “won’t agree on every issue, but I do promise that your hospitality to me today will be returned” was a summation that, if sincere, is hard to argue with.

Ultimately, though, after a winning intro, he fell back on boilerplate — that he’d “clamp down” on China (read: Obama’s soft), “restore economic freedom” (read: Obama’s a socialist) and “work to reform and save Medicare” (read: vouchers). Romney did a good job of sticking to his core message but probably fell short of moving the needle his way among the broad African-American electorate.

Which no one, including Romney, expected anyway.

David Swerdlick is a contributing editor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.