Clark Stooksbury says Robert Stacy McCain and I are being naive for praising Mitt Romney's performance at the NAACP confab. Stooksbury argues that Romney's intended audience was the Republican base, to whom he did pander, rather than the predominantly liberal black audience he was addressing.
Two points. First, I don't think I'm setting the bar particularly high here. I'm just asking Romney not to alter the policy specifics of his basic stump speech to ingratiate himself to a particular crowd. As a Massachusetts native who has watched Romney evolve from "progressive" to "severely conservative" right before my very eyes over the past decade, that's not something to be taken for granted. He stood his ground yesterday for whatever reason and should receive positive reinforcement for doing so.
Second, in the television/Internet era all public speeches by candidates have the base as part of the target audience. The speech in its entirety wasn't really some reverse Sister Souljah moment. It was partially an attempt to establish common ground with the NAACP and partly a restatement of the same basic pitch he would make to any other group of voters. Maybe his line about the Chamber of Commerce Obamacare survey was canned, maybe it wasn't. But the content and structure of the speech -- including the fact he was clearly ready to say something else immediately after the Obamacare reference -- was aimed at getting polite but unenthusiastic golf claps rather than provoking boos.
On another NAACP-related note, the Daily Caller reported yesterday that the group's leadership (which backed gay marriage after President Obama did) rebuked Romney's stand on traditional marriage while the crowd seemed to like it. One thing to watch is how much of the increase in black support for gay marriage since Obama's position changed is actually reflected in the way blacks vote on marriage-related ballot initiatives.
The limited exit poll data we have suggests that blacks were already voting against same-sex marriage by larger margins than national polls on the subject predicted. How much of the increase in black support for gay marriage in national polls reflects support for the president rather than an actual change in position? Maryland and other states might give us a chance to find out in November.
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