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Relationship Status of Mitt Romney and Kris Kobach: It's Complicated

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Once upon a time, Mitt Romney was enamored with a certain Kansas Secretary of State named Kris Kobach, a disarmingly handsome lawyer known for authoring state anti-immigrant bills across the nation, including SB 1070 in Arizona and HB 56 in Alabama.  In Kris, Mitt found someone who truly spoke to the right-wing base Mitt was so desperate to court, someone who could shore up Mitt’s anti-immigrant bona fides, someone who could advise him on concepts like “self deportation” and what it takes to make immigrants so miserable that they willingly leave the US.

“I’m so proud to earn Kris’ support,” Mitt said in a statement the day Kris endorsed him.  “We need more conservative leaders like Kris willing to stand up for the rule of law.  With Kris on the team, I look forward to working with him to take forceful steps to curtail illegal immigration.”

Forward all of three months, and Mitt Romney is no longer a struggling candidate. He’s the presumed Republican presidential nominee. Romney is turning his sights toward the general election and away from the extremist GOP primary-voter base that, among other things, would be happy to see all 11 million undocumented immigrants forcibly expelled from the country.

Suddenly, Kris Kobach is no longer the “it” boy.  That’s now the Latino voter demographic, the fastest growing constituency in the nation and the expected kingmakers in key battleground states like Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona.  And if Mitt Romney wants to win them—current reports show him polling at 14% among Latino voters—he’s going to have to jump through quite a few hoops to prove to them that he’s not a taken man.

He’s trying.  As Glenn Thrush reported in Politico yesterday, Mitt quietly left Kris off a “fairly comprehensive” Boston Globe list of staff and advisers.  When Thrush asked whether Kobach was still an “adviser,” a Romney spokesperson emailed back saying “supporter.” Ouch.  That’s a bit of a walkback from the days when Kobach was considered an “unpaid adviser on immigration issues.”

One might ask who exactly Mitt Romney thinks he’s fooling with this under-the-table breakup.  Does he really think that the Latino vote—which might have been OK with Mitt being linked to, say, George W. Bush, who once tried to pass comprehensive immigration reform—is really going to accept the fact that who Mitt really wants to side with is Kris Kobach, the man who wants to deport their DREAMers and break up their families?

To make things even more awkward, Kris apparently isn’t having an easy time letting go.  According to Think Progress, Kris disputes the Romney campaign’s new characterization of his role, saying “no, my relationship with the campaign has not changed. Still doing the same thing I was doing before…providing advice on immigration policy…I don’t want to go into great detail, but I communicate regularly with senior members of Romney’s team.”

We can’t blame Kris—who has been (an adviser) with Mitt since his 2008 presidential campaign—for wanting to hold on.  It always hurts to be cast out in favor of a 12 million voter demographic group.  Kris clearly thought this relationship was going somewhere—and now he’s stuck holding the extremist end of the stick.  And considering this happened the very first weekend Mitt could safely consider himself the GOP nominee…we can’t wait to see what other steps Mitt will take to try and win himself the coveted 40% of the Latino vote.