By missing the NAACP Convention in Houston this week, President Obama became the first Democratic party nominee for president in at least 36 years not to attend the NAACP gathering during an election year.
The last Democrat who ran for the White House who did not attend the NAACP convention was President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. It could not be verified whether Democrats Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern spoke to the NAACP in 1968 when the NAACP convention was in Atlantic City, and in 1972, when the convention was in Detroit. Every Democratic nominee from Jimmy Carter in 1976 to then-Sen. Obama in 2008 had addressed the NAACP convention until this week.
The NAACP’s official historian, Mildred Bond Roxborough, says Humphrey and McGovern did speak during 1968 and 1972 but Politic365 could not independently verify they attended. If Humphrey and McGovern did attend in those years, President Obama would be the first Democratic party nominee for president in 48 years not to address the NAACP convention during an election year.
The annual convention of the oldest civil rights organization in America is usually held in early July — less than 120 days from election day. The 2012 election is expected to be a particularly close race and the NAACP’s members include community leaders, activists and clergy — the event has been a featured stop for Democrats since Harry Truman spoke to the NAACP at the Lincoln Memorial in 1947.
But the convention has also been a stop for Republicans. In 2008, John McCain and Mike Huckabee spoke to the NAACP. Democrats running four years ago, including then-Sen. Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton and John Edwards also spoke at the 2008 convention in Cincinatti, Ohio.
The last time President Obama spoke to the NAACP convention was at their 100th anniversary in New York in 2009. The NAACP convention ended yesterday, 116 days from election day on November 6.
Many who attended the convention in Houston questioned why the President did not attend but few were interested in public criticism knowing the alternative: Mitt Romney. Romney, the Republican presidential candidate spoke in Houston on Wednesday and was booed for saying he’d “eliminate Obamacare.” Vice President Joe Biden spoke yesterday and was very enthusiastically received.
NAACP President Ben Jealous cited a scheduling conflict when asked on MSNBC yesterday about the President not attending. However, many have noted that the President’s schedule both Wednesday and Thursday of this week featured few events. Yesterday the President was interviewed by PBS host Charlie Rose. The only other event on his Thursday schedule was the daily briefing in the morning, and entry that is on his schedule every day.
A pre-taped message by the President was played yesterday before Biden spoke at the convention. The President is scheduled to attend the National Urban League’s Conference in New Orleans next week. The President’s attendance at the Urban League Conference will be his first speech to a large predominately Black group or convention this year.
LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE, Politic365 Managing Editor, publishes the blog Crewof42 on the Congressional Black Caucus. She can be heard every Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET on WMCS 1290 in Milwaukee on Earl Ingram’s show The Evening Rush as well as on WPFW 89.3 every Friday at 6:30 p.m. Ms. Burke is a former employee of USAToday.com and ABC News. You can e-mail her at LBurke007@gmail.com follow her on twitter @Crewof42.