It turns out that the many headlines today announcing, as the New York Times did, "Romney Makes a Push for Black Voters," were premature and possibly just plain wrong, although reporters and headline writers are to be forgiven for assuming that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney accepted an invitation to speak at the NAACP because he wanted to reach out to African-American voters. Romney did in fact speak at the august civil rights groups' annual conference in Houston, but he was targeting white conservative voters nowhere near the convention hall.
That helps explain the arresting moment when Romney invoked Republican slang for the first black president's health care plan and reminded the crowd that he would repeal "Obamacare." The audience booed, loudly and for several seconds, which, when combined with the optics of Romney's forced, pained smile, felt like minutes. There will be a great temptation to call the moment a monumentally bad political miscalculation by Romney's campaign, but I don't buy it. There is simply no evidence to support the notion that Romney or his handlers are not smart enough or savvy enough to understand the potential fallout of their decision to use today's venue to discuss repealing the president's signature domestic initiative, one that makes two changes heralded by black voters - an end to exclusions based on preexisting conditions and the creation of community health centers in underserved neighborhoods.