CNN National Political Correspondent
Houston (CNN) — Mitt Romney was booed repeatedly Wednesday during his address to an NAACP convention in Houston. The 15 seconds of loud booing that interrupted one portion of Romney’s speech was likely the most prolonged negative response he has faced this campaign.
As soon as the GOP contender finished his remarks, campaign surrogates offered a different perspective on the speech to reporters. Aides noted an “acceptance” of Romney’s message, pointing out he was applauded more than he was booed.
That assessment of the speech, however, differs greatly from reactions volunteered by several NAACP leaders and members.
In an interview with CNN, NAACP National Board Chairwoman Rosyln Brock immediately seized on Romney’s vow to repeal what the unofficial GOP nominee called “Obamacare,” the buzz-word coined by conservative critics of the president’s health care law.
“That was a loaded statement and the crowd erupted with displeasure,” Brock said. “They absolutely booed,” she added.
The president of the Washington, D.C. branch of the civil rights group, Akosua Tyus, described the outbursts as an “uproar.” Tyus defended her participation in the negative response.
“He literally came to our house and attacked the issues that are important to us on our turf,” Tyus said. She too objected to Romney’s use of the term, “Obamacare.”
Claudia Brown, an NAACP member who is running for a seat in the Texas state legislature admitted she “booed loudly.” But she added, “I was not booing him the man. Because I love all people because I’m a Christian. I was booing his agenda.”
The boisterous response did not sit well with Peggy Holmes, an NAACP member who traveled to the annual conference from Akron, Ohio. She said she was disappointed with the audience reaction.
“Because I wasn’t raised that way. If I invite someone to my house, I treat them like a guest. I respect them,” Holmes said.
The GOP contender made several overtures that appealed to the civil rights group’s more conservative, evangelical members.
Romney drew applause from the audience when he hinted at his opposition to same-sex marriage, an issue that has divided NAACP members.
“As president, I will promote strong families and I will defend traditional marriage,” Romney said.
Conservative pundits praised Romney on-line for sticking to his principles in front of what was a much more liberal audience.
Jim Geraghty of the National Review Online touted what he called a “surprisingly strong appearance.”
“I think the speech was one of Romney’s best of the campaign, often articulating conservative principles,” Geraghty wrote.
Another noted conservative voice, CNN political contributor David Frum questioned whether Romney’s performance was politically calculated.
“If I were a political cynic, I’d wonder whether the Romney campaign wanted to be booed at NAACP,” Frum tweeted.
For its part, the Romney campaign dispatched a well-known, conservative African-American pundit to share her reaction with reporters.
Tara Wall, a fixture on cable news programs who now leads Romney’s outreach to African American voters, seemed satisfied with the crowd’s response.
“Three boos out of thunderous applause over and over again, I’ll take that,” Wall said.
Pressed by reporters to single out that moment of “thunderous applause,” Wall corrected herself.
“Okay, applause in general. I think there was a lot more, as I’ve said a few times, a lot more applause than there were boos. I will take the fact that there was acceptance overall with his speech,” Wall said.
While not thundering applause, there was a standing ovation at the end from roughly half of the audience according to several observers after Romney’s remarks.
CNN’s Shawna Shepherd and Matt Hoye contributed to this report.
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