Mitt Romney’s speech to the NAACP last week was widely reported for the boos Romney received for saying he would repeal Obamacare. While this was naturally the most newsworthy part of his remarks, the speech itself was wide ranging and well delivered.
Take this introductory section, for instance, which eloquently lays out Romney’s reason for making the speech to a potentially hostile crowd:
“Now with 90% of African Americans who typically vote for Democrats, you may wonder, or some may wonder, why a republican would bother to campaign in the African American Community, and to address the NAACP. One reason of course is that I hope to represent all Americans of every race, creed, and sexual orientation. From the poorest to the richest and everyone in between.”
The decision to address his position on Obamacare in the speech was, in my opinion, a brave one (most of all because one of the demographic groups most likely to benefit from Obamacare is the black community). Some commentators are suggesting that this was a strategic oversight, i.e. the Romney Campaign should have foreseen this and changed the wording of the speech to make it more palatable for the NAACP audience. I agree that this was an oversight – the biggest tell-tale sign was Romney’s own reaction, which reveals that he was not expecting such a negative response.
However, my biggest impression from the speech was how well Romney handled the situation. To me, it revealed something of Romney’s political nous and his ability to persuade – skills that I haven’t seen from him much in the past. Having justified his position, the audience members were actually cheering him. And this was all the more impressive because it was delivered (seemingly) without notes, without auto-cue, from the top of his head.
Here’s what he said:
“…I’m going to eliminate every non-essential program I can find, that includes Obamacare [boos from the audience]. And I’m going to work to reform and save…[more boos and jeers – long pause from Romney] You know there was a survey, there was a survey of the Chamber of Commerce, they carried out a survey of their members – about 1500 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.
So I say again, if our priority is jobs – and that’s my priority – that’s something I would change. And I’d replace [it] with something that provides the people with something they need in healthcare which is lower costs, good quality, a capacity to deal with people who have pre-existing conditions, and I’d put that in place. And I’d also work to save and reform Medicare and Social Security.
People keep talking about the fact that those programs are on the pathway to insolvency and yet nothing gets done to fix them. I will fix them and make sure they are permanent and secure for our seniors today and our seniors tomorrow. And I’ll do that in part by means-testing the benefits meaning higher benefits for lower income people and lower benefits for higher income folks. [Applause]”
I admit that I’ve not, so far, been persuaded by Romney. He doesn’t come across well – especially to a non-American audience – and particularly in a global media still besotted with the Obama brand. However, while being careful not to jump to conclusions based on a single speech, it looks like Romney might be finding his voice.
You can read Romney’s full speech here.