It's a mistake to assume that every prominent Republican who speaks at the NAACP's national convention will receive a cool reception. It's simply not the case -- then-RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman's speech in 2004 was very well received, for example.
So, when Mitt Romney agreed to speak this morning, it was hardly a foregone conclusion that his remarks would go over poorly. Sure, he antagonized the NAACP in Massachusetts during his one term as governor. And sure, Romney's right-wing policy agenda would disproportionately hurt African Americans. And sure, Romney's party is engaged in a systematic effort to prevent African-American voters from participating in the 2012 elections.
But Romney nevertheless could have stressed areas of agreement and made his case for why his far-right proposals would help the African-American community. Instead, the Republican chose a different path.
I've been following NAACP conventions for quite a while now, and I can't recall ever hearing such a lengthy, sustained booing. (The rest of the speech received polite applause, but the booing was obviously the most notable development of the morning.)
The wonk in me feels compelled to mention that Romney's argument wasn't even coherent on its face -- he said he wants to kill the Affordable Care Act to reduce the deficit, which is absurd since killing the Affordable Care Act would increase the deficit.
But I think it's probably safe to say that's not why Romney was booed. In fact, this was entirely predictable -- the far-right Republican presidential candidate spoke to the NAACP and effectively proclaimed, "Vote for me and I'll make sure 7 million African Americans lose their health insurance."
What kind of campaign pitch is that? For crying out loud, of course Romney got booed. At the risk of being overly cynical, I can't help but wonder if Romney did this on purpose precisely so he would be booed.
In the larger context, Jamil Smith argued there Romney really didn't have anything to lose by giving this speech, and I wholeheartedly agree. If it went well, Romney gets a boost thanks to a warm reception from a Democratic constituency. If it went poorly, Romney gets credit for the outreach, and his base gets further motivated.
Indeed, if I had to guess, I'd say Romney will now position himself as something of a victim -- he appeared in good faith, the argument goes, but that mean ol' NAACP audience booed him for standing by his beliefs.
It'll be nonsense, but it's likely to become the Republican talking point.