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Day 3 of the Republican National Convention: the Bid for the Latino Vote VS. Sheriff Joe Arpaio

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UPDATE:  It’s not just Sheriff Joe Arpaio who believes that Mitt Romney will in fact enact the immigration positions he espoused during the Republican primaries.  America’s Voice also caught up with Kris Kobach, Mitt Romney’s sometimes-maybe immigration advisor, who also said he had no reason to doubt Romney’s positions on immigration:

[Mitt Romney] has taken some strong positions, and his statements during the primaries have laid out a very good position for the Republican party.  He hasn’t said he’s changed his position and I trust him…I would hope that no candidate would go back on anything he says.

Once again, it looks like Romney is caught between a rock and a hard place.  If he wants to moderate his positions on immigration to win more Latino voters this November, he’s going to have to disappoint some true believers (like Arpaio and Kobach).

Watch the video here.

Yesterday in immigration at the Republican National Convention was a contrast between several high-profile Republicans who have spent the last few months essentially jumping up and down yelling that their party needs to do more to win the Latino vote—and one very high-profile rogue lawman who denied that his extremism on immigration was even part of the problem.

Former Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), Republican strategist Ana Navarro, Republican pollster Whit Ayres participated in a breakfast panel with Univision, National Journal and ABC News yesterday, each to offer their own comments about how Republicans need to change their messaging on immigration and how seriously they need to start competing for the Latino vote.

“We went through a tough period of time when the primary did the exact opposite of what we needed to be doing,” Sen. Martinez said, referring to a GOP primary campaign that veered extremely hard to the right on immigration, alienating many Latino voters.  “I think the tone has been wrong.  And I think the tone in the primary really did a lot of damage.”

Otherwise, the former Senator warned, the GOP risks being “relegated to a minority party” for years if it fails to “find a way to make that connection” with Hispanic voters.

“Where his numbers are right now, we should be pressing the panic button,” Ana Navarro said, referring to the fact that Mitt Romney needs at least 38% of the Latino vote to win the White House this fall. He is currently polling as low as 22%.

“There’s a critical need for Republican candidates to do a great deal better” among Hispanics than they currently are, Whit Ayres rounded out.  If Latino vote trends continue on their current trajectory, Republicans won’t just be worrying about holding onto Florida.  “We’re going to be talking about how not to lose Texas.”

Yet mere minutes after the Univision panel ended, a Republican official who notably has not heeded advice to moderate his positions on immigration took the stage elsewhere in the convention.  Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the rogue Arizona lawman who is currently waiting on the outcome of a federal trial accusing him and his office of engaging in racial profiling, went in front of the Foreign Press to argue—among other things—that all he does in Arizona is to enforce the law and that the President should give him a medal.

“If those laws are there, they should be enforced, not the backdoor problem that our current president has done with his executive orders without even going through Congress on an election year to circumvent,” Arpaio said, referring to President Obama’s new program to grant deferred action to DREAMers.  Arpaio’s home state of Arizona, led by Governor Jan Brewer (R), has sought to handicap the new policy by prohibiting DREAMers who apply from receiving public services like drivers’ licenses.

Arpaio expressed support for the newly-passed GOP platform on immigration (“I think it’s pretty good”), which was written by anti-immigrant architect Kris Kobach and includes restrictionist planks such as self-deportation, opposition to deferred action, and support for SB 1070-like anti-immigrant laws.

He also said—twice—that he believes Mitt Romney is such a man of honor that GOP presidential candidate will in fact enact the immigration policies he espoused during the primaries.  Romney, caught between wanting to court the Latino vote and wanting to please his anti-immigrant base, has avoided talking about immigration for months.  Arpaio said yesterday, “if he says he’s going to do it, he’s going to do it.  You don’t think he’s going to do it?”

At the end, a Telemundo reporter asked Arpaio whether he believed his actions on immigration posed an obstacle to a Republican party that desperately needs to win more of the Latino vote.

“I don’t agree with that, no,” said Arpaio, who once told Unvision’s Jorge Ramos that Latinos “love me.”

Sheriff Arpaio has been given a speaking position at the RNC — kind of. He’ll be speaking to Western delegates this afternoon, not at the convention center, but at (of all places) the Tampa zoo, next to the elephant enclosure.