A few dozen protesters met him with chants of “Get out, Romney, get out!”
Madaline G. Dunn, 78, who said she has lived there for 50 years, said she is “personally offended” that Romney would visit her neighborhood.
“It’s not appreciated here,” she said. “It is absolutely denigrating for him to come in here and speak his garbage.”
Romney took his campaign to the Universal Bluford Charter School in West Philadelphia aiming to highlight his education agenda but also to connect with voters who were not part of his political calculus during the primary campaign. “I come to learn, obviously, from people who are having experiences that are unique and instructive,” he said.
Despite the obvious difficulties, Romney’s outreach to black voters could reap dividends even if he is unable to significantly chip into Obama’s support. “Suburban voters will be a real battleground, and upscale white voters like to think of themselves as tolerant and they won’t vote for a candidate that is seen as exclusionary, and the Romney folks must be aware of that,” said Bill Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “He has to persuade suburban voters that he isn’t Rick Santorum. He could break the mold a little bit and do some campaigning in African American communities. It would get people talking, and it would be all gain and very little pain.”
But there was evidence on Thursday that it would not be painless. Among the protesters heckling Romney from a distance were some of Philadelphia’s most prominent officials, all of them Democrats.
Mayor Michael Nutter quipped that Romney had “suddenly somehow found west Philadelphia.”
“It’s nice that he decided this late in his [campaign] to see what a city like Philadelphia is about,” Nutter said. “I don’t know that a one-day experience in the heart of west Philadelphia is enough to get you ready to run the United States of America.”
Philadelphia’s district attorney, Seth Williams, piled on.
“Instead of just talking at the school and getting back on his huge bus, he should come out, he should walk 60th Street, he should talk to folks who are out here that are mad so maybe he could understand how real Americans, those that live here in urban America, the issues that are important to us,” Williams said.
Romney campaign officials understand their challenge with black voters against a Democratic incumbent, particularly when that incumbent is also the first African American elected to the presidency. Still, they insist they will try.