Biden warns of refighting old battles under Romney

Vice President Joe Biden addresses the NAACP annual convention on Thursday.

WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden made an impassioned appeal to the nation’s oldest civil rights group Thursday, calling on members to rally behind the first black president and reject a Republican vision for the country that would roll back progress for minorities.

Speaking at the NAACP conference in Houston a day after presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney appeared there, Biden delivered a sharp rebuttal to Romney’s contention that his policies would be better for black families than President Barack Obama’s have been at a time when black unemployment stands at 14.4 percent.

Biden sketched out what he said is the GOP’s hostile position toward the middle and working classes on voting rights, health care, taxes and education to argue that a Romney administration would be detrimental to African-Americans.

“Did you think we’d be fighting these battles again?” Biden said. “I didn’t think we’d be back. I remember working with Republicans — and by the way, this ain’t your father’s Republican Party — on motor-voter, expanding the voting franchise. Some of these were Republican ideas. This is not the Republican Party’s view today, nor Romney’s. They see a different future in which voting is harder than easier.”

Biden added, “There’s a lot more to say, but this is preaching to the choir.”

Indeed it was. Polls show that black voters overwhelmingly support Obama, even if they are frustrated by unemployment, which is far higher among African-Americans, and by the economy.

The atmosphere in the ballroom appeared to reflect that the crowd was not overtly upset that Obama had chosen not to address the convention this year and sent Biden to represent him. Whereas Romney drew three sets of boos from the same audience, Biden received a warm welcome and applause throughout. When he said he would wrap up his speech, some in the audience shouted, “Nooo!”

Before Biden spoke, Obama addressed the audience through a video message. The president, echoing his campaign stump speech, told the crowd that his administration is committed to a country where “no matter who you are or what you look like or where you come from, America is a place where you can make it if you try.”

Of the economic struggles, Obama declared that the mission is to “not just recover from the recession but reclaim the security so many Americans have lost.”

On Wednesday, Romney had told the NAACP that Obama had failed in his bid to restore prosperity and security.

“If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him,” Romney said, drawing boos.