Jul 11, 2012

(USAToday) -- Mitt Romney will tell the NAACP today that he has the "best interest" of all Americans at heart, as he seeks to outline why he believes President Obama has failed blacks on issues such as the economy and education.

"I believe that if you understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of African-American families, you would vote for me for president," Romney will say, according to excerpts of his speech released by his campaign.

"My campaign is about helping the people who need help. The course the president has set has not done that -- and not do that," Romney will say. "My course will."

Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, will address the NAACP's annual convention in Houston at 10:30 a.m. ET.

The Republican has an uphill battle with African Americans, who have voted Democrats into the White House for decades. In 2008, Obama won 96% of the African-American vote on his way to making history as the nation's first black president.

As he has in speeches before Hispanic groups, Romney will try to appeal to black voters on issues such as the economy.

"If equal opportunity in America were an accomplished fact, then a chronically bad economy would be equally bad for everyone," Romney will say, according to the excerpts. "Instead, it's worse for African Americans in almost every way."

He will point to the 14.4% unemployment rate among blacks, as well as average income and median family wealth as being worse for black families.

Romney will also talk about his support for changes in education, such as providing federal funds so parents can have a choice in where to send their children to school. "I will be a champion of real education reform in America, and I won't let any special interest get in my way," he will say.

The fact that Romney is even speaking to the nation's oldest civil rights group is noteworthy, given the history of some recent GOP presidential candidates and the NAACP.

Bob Dole declined the group's invitation in 1996. George W. Bush spoke to the NAACP in 2000 but then skipped the group's annual convention for five years while he was president.

Romney also has a tough act to follow in his own family. His father, George, fought anti-segregation efforts while he was governor of Michigan and sought to end discrimination in housing when he was in the Nixon administration.

In 1964, the elder Romney declined to back Barry Goldwater as the GOP presidential nominee because of concerns that the Arizonan was vying for the votes of white segregationists in the South. And in the run-up to his own 1968 presidential bid, George Romney toured urban areas decimated by race riots in Detroit and other cities.

President Obama addressed the NAACP as a candidate in 2008. This year, Vice President Biden will speak to the group tomorrow and Attorney General Eric Holder made his remarks yesterday.
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