In an attempt to move himself back to the "center" Mitt Romney made a trek to West Philly last week to visit a black charter school and talk education reform. Hilarity, but sadly no YouTube classics, ensued.
Making a rare inner-city campaign stop, Mitt Romney preached the merits of traditional two-parent families and touted his platform of educational choice at a West Philadelphia charter school Thursday.Classic Romney Awkwardness™. Where is the YouTube, doggonit, I needed to see this. I'm willing to bet it didn't look to different from this...
The Republican presidential candidate had little political reason during the primaries to visit heavily Democratic neighborhoods like Carroll Park. And his initial foray as the all-but-certain GOP nominee probably had more to do with outreach to suburban moderates than to African Americans, who are strongly behind President Obama.
When Romney's customized campaign bus rolled up to the Universal Bluford Charter School, he could see signs on the row houses across the street, including one that bore Obama's picture and the words "We got your back." Another read, "Stop Privatizing."
Inside the newly renovated two-story brick school building, the welcome was much friendlier, though Romney was challenged repeatedly during a round table discussion with educators to defend his claim that reducing class size doesn't improve student performance. The former Massachusetts governor contends that pressing for smaller classes is a ploy by teachers unions — one of his favorite targets — to get more teachers hired.
Steven Morris, a music instructor at Bluford, told Romney: "I can't think of any teacher in the whole time I have been teaching, 13 years, who would say that more students [in the classroom] would benefit them. And I can't think of a parent that would say I would like my teacher to be in a room with a lot of kids and only one teacher."
Ronald Benner, whose technology classes range from 23 to 28 students, chimed in that "you can give more personalized attention to each student if you have a smaller class size." Another teacher emphasized the importance of keeping classes below 18 students in early primary grades.
Inside the school, Romney debated issues with educators and tried to connect with the students. When he visited a classroom where the kids in the elementary school choir were standing, swaying and clapping to the beat of Kirk Franklin’s “I Smile,” Romney appeared charmed but did not dance with them. Rather, he tapped one of his toes slightly and bobbed his head, but did not catch the rhythm..
“You just sang a song about smiling,” Romney told the kids. “You’re all smiling right? Smile! Oh, that’s great.”
"Who Let The Dogs Out?" was already played out when the 2008 election rolled around, but don't let that distract from the awesome awkwardness on display here. As a guy who sometimes struggles with what to say/do in social situations himself, I find this sorta endearing, and think Romney would be wise to play it up in a self-deprecating manner. I doubt he has that level of self-awareness though.
What's very clear here is that this isn't a play for Black votes, but an end-around to white moderates and independents. After a primary season in which Romney either sat idly by, or in some case co-signed some truly appalling statements by his opponents, he needs to look "inviting" "accepting" and "open minded" to appeal to well-meaning white voters who aren't crazy about Obama but don't really care to be associated with the stench of what was a really negative, and in some cases scary GOP primary seasons. When in doubt, pull in some adorable black kids. Never mind Romney's out of touch theories about class size and two parent households being the Bain of black education. A photo-op cures all concerns.
Now if he'd just do something about that Trump endorsement.
Question: What's Romney's real goal here? Can he capture 10% or more of the black vote?
 Pun intended.