HOUSTON (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney drew jeers Wednesday as he criticized President Barack Obama and pledged to repeal the Democrats' health care overhaul.
Romney told the annual meeting of the NAACP that backing him over the Democratic incumbent is in the best interest of their families. He acknowledged his Republican Party doesn't have a perfect record on race relations but pledged during a sometimes rocky speech that, if elected, he would work with black leaders to put the country back to work.
“I am going to eliminate every non-essential, expensive program that I can find — and that includes Obamacare,” Romney said, drawing his first boos of the day.
Romney stood motionless with a reserved expression for 15 seconds before noting a survey from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as support for his position. His rebuttal was greeted with silence.
Romney received polite applause at several points during the speech. But he was interrupted again when he flatly accused Obama of failing to spark a more robust economic recovery.
“I know the president has said he will do those things. But he has not. He cannot. He will not. And his last four years in the White House prove it definitively,” Romney said as the crowd's murmurs turned to louder groans.
Finally, he stopped amid loud jeers.
“If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him. You take a look,” Romney shot back.
Romney, running against the nation's first black president, isn't going to win the African American vote. But he made a pitch with a major speech that also was aimed at showing independent and swing voters that he's willing to reach out to diverse audiences — and demonstrating that his campaign and the Republican Party he leads are inclusive.
All told, it's a difficult sell — 95 percent of blacks backed Obama in 2008. But Romney's speech aside, Republicans and Democrats say he's making a statement just by showing up and speaking to the nation's oldest and largest civil rights group.