In early 1990, as the lackluster California governorship of the lackluster George Deukmejian was running down, the two Democratic front-runners to succeed him were Attorney General John Van de Kamp and San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein—in that order. Then, at the state’s annual Democratic Party convention—a body with no nominating power (that was to be decided in a subsequent primary) but nonetheless a yearly gathering for liberal activists—Feinstein included in her speech a ringing, if otherwise gratuitous, endorsement of the death penalty. Predictably, the delegates booed her. Just as predictably, her standing in the polls quickly shot past Van de Kamp’s and she went on to win the Democratic primary (though she lost the general election to Republican Pete Wilson).
Make no mistake, though: She’d wanted those boos. She needed them to surge in the polls.
It’s increasingly clear that Mitt Romney wanted the boos he got during his speech at yesterday’s NAACP convention, too. His campaign surely has no illusions that he can dent Obama’s support in black America, much less among the activists of the NAACP. What he could do, by eliciting boos from the crowd, is further inflame the zeal of many on the right by standing up to African Americans. Asked about the booing by Fox Business News’ Neal Cavuto, Romney responded, “I think we expected that, of course.” Of course they did. By showing up, Romney can claim he gets points for broadmindedness, or something like that, and gin up that part of his base that’s filled with racial resentment. They love him for the enemies he went out of his way to make.