Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke Wednesday at a convention for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and did not receive a favorable reaction when he vowed to repeal President Barack Obama's healthcare law. Members of the audience at the Houston, Texas conference audibly booed Romney, who responded with a slightly stunned expression.
"I'm going to eliminate every nonessential, expensive program I can find. That includes Obamacare," Romney said, and the audience showed its disapproval of such a measure.
The Republican candidate then deviated from his prepared remarks, citing a Chamber of Commerce survey where three quarters of businesses say they'd would be less likely to hire people because of the healthcare law.
"So I say again, if our priority is jobs, and that's my priority, that's something I'd change," he said. "And I'd replace it with something that provides the people something they need, which is lower costs, good quality, a capacity to deal with people who have pre-existing conditions."
Romney also attempted to appeal to the NAACP attendees by stating that he will work to protect "traditional marriage." Obama recently came out in support of gay marriage, which many black voters do not support.
"Any policy that lifts up and honors the family is going to be good for the country, and that must be our goal," Romney said. "As president, I will promote strong families and I will defend traditional marriage."
Romney faces an uphill battle in courting black voters: Obama received 95 percent of the black vote when he was elected as the nation's first black president in 2008. African-Americans have typically been a reliable Democratic base, although Romney claimed in his speech he could serve the constituency better than Obama.
"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," he 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."
Romney has centered his campaign on the economy, promising to lower unemployment and create jobs. Black unemployment is at 14.4 percent, 6.2 percentage points higher than the national rate of 8.2 percent. The number is also up from May, when the black unemployment rate was 13.6 percent.
The NAACP audience clearly didn't approve of Romney's vow to repeal Obamacare, but they may support his stance on issues like gay marriage and the economy.
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