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Romney to speak at NAACP next month

Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney will address the largest black civil rights group in the United States next month, the NAACP said Tuesday.

Romney, who squares off against President Barack Obama in November's election, will attend the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, set for July 7-12 in Houston, Texas.

Romney was invited to address the convention shortly after he clinched his party's presidential nomination last month, NAACP spokesman Derek Turner said.

The organization is also hoping Obama, the country's first African-American president, will attend the event. Both he and Senator John McCain addressed the NAACP when they were candidates for the presidency in 2008.

Romney's campaign confirmed he accepted the invitation to speak at the annual convention but provided no further details.

Turner told AFP he expects Romney to "address civil rights" during his speech, "as they are in line with our mission."

The NAACP will be eager to hear Romney's solutions to speed up the sluggish American economic recovery as well. The unemployment rate among blacks stood at 13.6 percent in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than five points higher than the national average of 8.2 percent.

Blacks also disproportionately fill the ranks of the poor and the uninsured, two groups which critics say would be severely impacted by Republican efforts to slash federal programs like food stamps in order to curb runaway government spending.

African-Americans are seen as benefiting more from Obama's landmark health care reform law, which aims to provide health insurance to 32 million Americans -- and which Romney has vowed to repeal if he is elected.

According to a Gallup poll in January, 20.9 percent of blacks are uninsured, compared to 11.8 percent of whites. Hispanics topped the chart with 40.7 percent uninsured.

Polls show a tight race between Obama and Romney down the stretch to November, and while Obama is seen as having the black vote comfortably in hand, appealing to African-Americans is important for the Republican challenger.

Romney could score some crucial wins in swing states if enough minority voters turn out for him in places like North Carolina, where about a quarter of the electorate is black and which Obama barely won four years ago thanks in part to huge support among African-Americans.

But a new poll shows Obama's support among blacks in the state slipping.

A survey released June 12 by Public Policy Polling showed one in five blacks voting for Romney. Just five percent of blacks in the state voted for McCain in 2008.

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