Why did Mitt Romney go to Sanford, Florida on Election Eve?

Mitt Romney made a campaign stop in Sanford, Florida one day before the election.

Parallels with Ronald Reagan‘s 1980 speech at the Neshoba County Fair near Philadelphia, Mississippi to tout “states’ rights” should be obvious. But Romney’s signaling Monday seemed even more brazen. Of all the places across America to visit on Election Eve, why would Romney choose the site of America’s most racially-acrimonious episode in years? Sanford, if it needs to be said, is where George Zimmerman shot dead an unarmed black teen, Trayvon Martin, in February. This was subsequently swept under the rug by local police. When word finally percolated up the media food-chain, a national controversy ensued, prompting incredible vitriol from certain unsavory elements of the populace.

Whatever one feels about the Zimmerman-Martin encounter, gun policy, or 21st century race relations, the fact remains that many Americans were extremely upset by this incident. It rekindled bad feelings still harbored by countless black citizens that government agents, especially in (but not by any means limited to) the South, systematically subject them to disparate treatment. Even if Romney sincerely did not intend to signal anything crass with his appearance there — a notion which seems preposterous — his obliviousness would, perhaps, be more damning. However, I refuse to give Romney the benefit of the doubt any longer. He and his team knew exactly what they were doing.

Conservatives will spend the next weeks and months deliberating the causes of Romney’s outsized defeat. Already being cited is inadequate outreach to minorities. Romney’s decision to rally the troops in Sanford suggests that genuine “outreach” was never a real priority for him; in fact, he sought to exploit latent racial resentment for political gain. If the Republican nominee felt compelled to behave this way in 2012, the party has a long, long way to go.

About michaeltracey

Journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. Follow me on Twitter at @mtracey.

  • Baal

    The visit to Sanford was disgusting but I think he had already fried any goodwill he may have had with African-Americans (and others) after his fiasco  at the NAACP.

  • roz77

    Cool, another political article.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    Just before the election, no-one really tries to change any minds.  They just try to stir up the base to get pepole to the polls.  This was just Romney trying to get some more social conservaties to the polls by pushing an easy button.

    That and he had money to burn and wanted to leave everything he had in the field so he could live with himself if he lost the election.  At least he could look back and say that he tried as hard as he could and did everything that he could think of.

  • http://www.facebook.com/agni.ashwin Agni Ashwin

    I was expecting Romney to garner at least 95% of the African-American vote. I really don’t know what went wrong.

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.co.uk/ Steve Bowen

    It’s an election month sweetie

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QPVVPRJ7QKLPU6TF5B4IZTENTI No

    I wasn’t aware of this, and the first thing I thought of was a sort of rallying cry to “watch the voters at the polls” to “make sure there’s no ‘vote fraud’”, which is the clarion call for racialists masquerading as “concerned conservatives”. It’s probably especially bad given the fact that it did exactly nothing to change last night’s outcome. Similarly ineffective – thankfully – was Scott’s attempt to funnel all the people trying to vote into a very small voting window, for no apparent, logical reason.

    Whatever the case, I’m wondering if Romney has a political future now, outside of Utah. I would find it hard to believe the GOP will run him in 2016 even given the fact that they will probably win on boredom with Democrats. A senator? A representative? I don’t see it. But maybe they’ll make that mistake and hand another Democrat the White House…

  • Russian Alex

    I know, he was going straight to a landslide! Or was that a mudslide? I don’t quite remember.

  • Alex Petrov

    I am surprised people still circulate the Zimmerman story as though he simply shot a black teenager for no good reason. One, the police did not sweep the story under the rug, and two they were still doing their job investigating when the media decided on their own story to report and used each other as sources because they didn’t have any real sources. They didn’t even give a recent picture of the victim and made sure to only show mugshots of the shooter.

    The facts as I know them:

    Zimmerman called the police before approaching Martin. The police told him to not do anything because he has a tendency to play hero when he shouldn’t. Zimmerman didn’t do that and approached Martin. Shortly after approaching Martin, Zimmerman was attacked by Martin. Zimmerman called for help multiple times. Zimmerman eventually got his gun and shot Martin.

    Now, Zimmerman did some stupid stuff that he was told explicitly not to do by the police, but it wasn’t as simple as portrayed by a story-hungry media uninterested in actual facts or waiting for official police reports to be available. Was racism involved? Yeah. Was it nearly as bad as reported by the media? No, not even close.  What the media did here was exactly the same as what the media does with every paper that “debunks climate change”, which includes not admitting they got the story wrong once the real story is properly brought to light.

  • roz77

    Yea but this article doesn’t connect politics to religion at all. A straight political article shouldn’t be here.

  • Patterrssonn

    “The facts as I know them”? Weird how you follow that statement with a bunch of supposition. Unless of course you witnessed the whole thing, in which case you might want to get in touch with the police.

  • Michael Appleman

    Is this your blog?

  • roz77

    I honestly hate this line of reasoning from people. “If you don’t like what’s posted here, go somewhere else! No one’s forcing you to read it.” 

    You’re right. Nobody is forcing me to read this blog. I started reading this blog because I enjoyed the content on it. I’ve been a faithful (haha) reader for over 3 years. I like the articles that talk politics being intertwined with religion. Those are relevant.

    This article is not like that though. This has zero mention of religion at all, and I find that odd for a blog called “The Friendly Atheist”. I don’t think it’s too unreasonable for me to complain a bit about irrelevant articles that get posted here. For the most part I love what Hemant and the other bloggers do here, I just feel this content shouldn’t be here. Not that it’s a bad or inappropriate article, it just shouldn’t be here.

  • Michael Appleman

    The thing is it isn’t your place to say what should or should not be here. Its hemant’s blog and he can put whatever the hell he wants. Personally I like seeing political articles from the atheist perspective.

    Also, I did not say say “If you don’t like what’s posted here, go somewhere else! No one’s forcing you to read it.” . 

    You can voice your concerns all you want, but saying what should or should not be done in this case is out of line.

  • Baby_Raptor

    You need to educate yourself on what actually happened.

    1) The police DID sweep the entire thing under the rug, because Zimmerman’s daddy holds a lot of sway in that area. they had already closed the investigation and had to re-open it in wake of the outcry.

    2) Martin was doing absolutely nothing suspicious. There was no reason for Z to approach him. 

    3) Z has a *long* history of calling the cops whenever he sees a non-white, including calling the cops upon sighting a *child*. 

    4) Martin called the cops at least once. There is also a recording of him talking to his girlfriend about how scared he was that Zimmerman was following him.

    5) Z claimed that he had profuse bleeding and broken bones, and yet is pictured walking out of the police station perfectly fine. And he waited until the next day to go see a doctor of his choice, instead of rushing to an ER. Totes makes sense in light of the fact that Martin supposedly bashed his head into the concrete repeatedly, right?

    6) The reports that came out of the investigation cast serious doubt on Zimmerman’s story. You should read them. One of the huge ones was that if Zimmerman had really shot Martin as per his story, there would have been blood and gore all over him. Pictures show him totally clean. 

    I could continue, but I won’t. Please go educate yourself on what actually happened. 

  • Alex Petrov

     I apologize for lack of sources and in fact giving my interpretation of the facts. I will attempt to probably label facts and speculation this time. And when I say facts, I mean according to the sources which I fully admit may be faulty, and am willing to accept better sources that say other things about the case provided they have better evidence to back it up.

    General sources:

    Here is a Yahoo news story with a pdf link to the Police Report noting
    that Zimmerman is hurt (and I interpret that as being attacked):


    Before the shooting:
    (Fact) There is a video (that I have not watched but I trust it is accurately described) of Martin being completely calm and normal buying stuff at a nearby 7-11. Police had found him with Skittles and an Arizona Ice Tea. (Speculation) There’s no reason to suspect he would suddenly attack anyone.

    (Fact) Zimmerman called the police about a suspicious person (Martin). He was told by the police to stop following Martin. He did not comply. Zimmerman told the police that Martin was running away from him. (Speculation) Zimmerman scared Martin, and that’s a reasonable response to somebody following you for no discernible reason.

    (Speculation) Martin and Zimmerman have a verbal altercation. Martin confronted Zimmerman about following him. (Fact) The CNN sources says Zimmerman says Martin says, “What the f***’s your problem?” and Zimmerman replied, “I don’t have a problem.” and shortly after a fight broke out. (Speculation) I believe that exact quotes here are unlikely, and that Zimmerman is making himself look good, but it’s reasonable to expect Martin to confront Zimmerman and ask him what’s going on.

    (Speculation) Martin starts the physical confrontation. (Fact) One officer states Zimmerman was bleeding from nose and back of the head,  was wet, and was covered in grass. (Fact) His hands were not damaged. (Speculation) The first physical damage Zimmerman did to Martin was shooting him in the heart (killing him).

    As far as opinions go, I still think Zimmerman was pretty strongly at fault here, but it’s not as clear-cut as many news outlets and blogs were making it out to be. I agree that it was racist, to the extent that if ethnic backgrounds were swapped Zimmerman would’ve easily been convicted of manslaughter or worse.

    I still think manslaughter is appropriate, considering Zimmerman was told not to do what he did by the police, and that he could have very easily avoided the whole thing and was given the advice to do so. Seems like the definition of manslaughter to me.

    But again, not as black-and-white as people like to paint it as, and that disturbs me a bit, you know. It also disturbs me how angry people got over it without attempting to get as much of the story as they could.

  • HughInAz

    He’s planning to register them as Republicans after they die.

  • Gribblethemunchkin

    Manslaughter is accidental killing. Zimmerman, confronted an unarmed teenager, while armed with a firearm, after being told by the police explicitly not to do so and shot him dead. Thats not an accident. Martin did not accidentally walk behin a target that Zimmerman was aiming at. Zimmerman’s gun did not go off in its holster. Zimmerman drew his gun on another person and shot him. Thats murder and I don’t really see anything that might mitigate it. Zimmerman started the whole thing, was armed and fired upon another person. Murder.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Arthur-Bryne/100002441143047 Arthur Bryne

    There’s no explicit mention of religion, no.

    However, there’s potential for more than a few implicit connections; the basic association of racism with religiosity in the US, the way both seem to infest the south, the particularly bad history of it in the Mormon Church (though George Romney was ahead of his time on this and other related issues; contrariwise, his son’s attitudes seems far less progressive), and the GOP’s insensitivity to underlying long term shifts in the demographic composition of the US in both race and religion.

  • Michaelbrice

    “The facts as I know them”………..

    And just how would you know the facts?

  • Alex Petrov

    Manslaughter: The crime of killing a human being without malice aforethought, or otherwise in circumstances not amounting to murder.

    If his disobedience of the police’s request was illegal, it would be constructive manslaughter. Otherwise, involuntary manslaughter. He did not go into the event with the intent to kill Martin. He simply had a gun while going into the event.

  • Deven Kale

     I don’t see boredom as a voting incentive in 2016. To be honest, I expect a democrat victory then as well. More and more people are seeing the Republican platform as dangerous, both with national and foreign policy positions. I don’t see Republicans gaining much more ground until they reconsider their positions and get more in line with the 21st century.

  • oneoarout

    Of course Romney’s appearance in Sanford was meant to symbolize “taking out the black guy.” What else could it be?

  • Barefoot Bree

    “Outsized” defeat? In a final tally (as of now) of less than 2% difference?

    What is your standard of comparison?

  • http://twitter.com/mtracey Michael Tracey

    Take a look at the Electoral College map

  • Heidi

    Romney’s parents seem like they were nice, decent people. I feel badly for them that their son turned out so poorly.