Mitt Romney, who announced Tuesday he will speak at the NAACP’s national convention next month, is certainly aware he stands almost no chance of winning the black vote. More than 90 percent of African-Americans vote for the Democratic candidate in most presidential elections, and President Obama got 96 percent of the black vote in 2008, a number unlikely to drop much in November, as he is revered by black voters.
But it’s likely a net benefit to African-Americans Romney is giving the speech anyway, and here’s why. In preparing and delivering the speech, the Republican candidate will have to delve more deeply into issues that specifically affect blacks than at any other time of his campaign, as he spends most of his days in front of largely-Republican (and therefore) largely-white audiences. Romney doing this once is better than zero times.
It will focus the national media on black voters, who get usually get little attention compared to Latinos, who are more of a swing group that each candidate is spending much of their time targeting. (Obama and Romney are both speaking to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials this week for example.) Romney will also certainly meet with key black leaders in private before giving the speech.
And Romney, according to campaign officials, is likely to speak about education, a crucial issue to not only African-Americans but the entire country, but one that has gotten short shrift compared to other subjects in the campaign.
Of course for Romney himself, it’s not clear if the event will be a benefit. He will get a chance to show he is willing to campaign in front of black audiences, which probably won’t win him any black votes, but could help him with moderate white voters who might be wary of the GOP’s challenges with diversity.
But he is almost certain to be challenged by the audience on a number of issues, from his sharp criticisms of Obama to his decision to appear with Donald Trump, who has made a number of statements about Obama that have angered African-Americans.
Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @perrybaconjr