But coming off a divisive Republican primary that was dominated by staunch conservatives, Romney is eager to expand his appeal to independents and moderate voters in swing states like Pennsylvania, where Obama defeated his Republican opponent by 10 points in 2008. The school visit was in line with the “passionate conservative” push that Republican George W. Bush used to soften his image and win over moderate voters when he was elected president in 2000.
Outside the school, Philadelphia’s Democratic Mayor Michael Nutter, an Obama supporter, lashed out at Romney’s visit.
“It’s nice that he decided this late in his time to see what a city like Philadelphia is about,” Nutter said. “I don’t know that a one-day experience in the heart of West Philadelphia is enough to get you ready to run the United States of America.”
Besides discussing his policies with nearly a dozen local education leaders, Romney also visited with children. He shook hands with a classroom of third-graders and stood virtually motionless for several minutes, bobbing his head ever so slightly at times, as a music class sang and danced for him.
During the discussion, the school’s founder, Kenneth Gamble, told Romney that his “major concern is the future and the destiny of African American people in this country. Because once that problem is solved, I think that all of America will benefit from it.” Romney said he agreed.
Asked afterward whether thinks Romney understands the black community, Gamble replied: “I don’t know yet.”