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NAACP Boos Romney as He Prods Obama

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GettyImages(HOUSTON) -- Mitt Romney was booed at the NAACP today as he tried to explain how the nation's first black president has failed the country and how he'd do better.

The first and loudest objection erupted as Romney told a two-thirds-full room that he would repeal President Obama's signature health care law if he's elected.

Romney told the country's most visible black group that he would cut spending by cutting "nonessential programs," and he said "that includes Obamacare."

The boos rang out for several seconds and echoed in the large ballroom in Houston. Romney paused and tried to recover by citing a Chamber of Commerce study that said most people surveyed said the health law makes them less likely to hire people. He continued to talk about Medicare and Social Security, and eventually earned minimal applause by talking about benefits for poor people.

"I believe he included that part of the speech intentionally," Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said. "And I think the audience responded appropriately."

Reed, on a conference call organized by the Democratic National Committee after Romney's speech, accused Romney of staging a "political stunt" and that was aimed more at Republicans who weren't in the room.

"He wasn't speaking to the NAACP audience at all," Reed said. "To his base it will make him look strong, but he never stands up to anybody else."

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter added that "black folks are not going to sit there and listen to some of that nonsense" and said that the episode was comparable to the optics of a video showing Romney speaking to black schoolchildren in Philadelphia.

"He's going through the motions. He's doing the things he thinks he needs to do. He's in a campaign. He's doing all kinds of stuff. You can't take any of this stuff seriously," Nutter said. "The guy is a joke. He's not for real. He's a character playing a role and virtually perpetrating fraud on the American public with a lot of this stuff."

Romney was booed another time in his speech as he derided Obama on energy, trade, the size of government, education and the economy. "The president will say he will do those things, but he will not, he cannot, and his record of the last four years proves it," Romney said as the crowd jeered.

Romney told the NAACP, "If you want a president who will make things better in the African American community, you are looking at him." Some people clapped and some objected verbally. "You take a look," he added.

Tara Wall, a policy adviser to Romney, argued that Romney "received more applause than boos," including a standing ovation when the speech ended.

"If you want to count the handful of boos there were, I think we saw much more acceptance and applause of his speech a number of times," she said. "There was much more agreement over all from what I saw and heard."

Combining the last two ABC News polls to account for an adequate sample size of voters, blacks who are registered to vote prefer Obama over Romney by a staggering 96 percent to 3 percent.

Romney argued that as president he'd work with Democrats because when he was the governor of Massachusetts, he had to talk to Democrats just to get elected. "We don't count anybody out, and we sure don't make a habit of presuming anyone's support," he said.

His bottom-line pitch was that his "policies and vision will help hundreds of millions of middle-class Americans of all races, will lift people from poverty, and will help prevent people from becoming poor."

In a statement, Obama spokeswoman Clo Ewing said Romney "refused to use the opportunity today to finally lay out a plan for improving health care or education in this country."

"African Americans can't afford Romney Economics," she said.

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