Last week, Mitt Romney pretty much cleared the field for the GOP nomination. As we reported yesterday, over the weekend — the first weekend after becoming the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Romney finally acknowledged the fact that he has a “Latino problem” — because of his harsh anti-immigrant posturing in the Republican primary. Now, Romney didn’t intend to say so publicly. His remarks were made at a closed door fundraiser, but were overheard by reporters. Romney’s private words gave a clear window into his “Etch-A-Sketch” strategy around immigration. But given his associations with the likes of Kris Kobach, endorsements by recalled Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce and Rep. Lamar Smith (among others), and policy positions (i.e. vetoing the DREAM Act, support for self-deporation and viewing Arizona’s SB 1070 as a model) during the Republican primary, Romney will find it difficult if not impossible to hit the reset button with Latino voters.
And, Romney’s not-so-secret words caught the attention of the blogosphere.
Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos doesn’t see much hope for Romney to turn it around:
According to current polling, Romney could face an 80-20 loss with Latinos to Obama. And if he does, there is no realistic path to GOP victory. None.
So his response will apparently be to go all-in with the GOP’s Hail Mary on immigration—a version of the DREAM Act that would keep those kids from being deported without giving them any hope of actual citizenship; perpetual second-class status with a guarantee those youngsters will never sully the GOP’s America with the title “citizens” (or cast votes). Does Romney really believe that he can win back Latinos by telling undocumented Latino kids that there’s no way they can ever be Americans, despite being American in every way except for the paperwork?
That would be insultingly too little, and far far too late to have an impact. Republicans have made their beds with Latinos. Actually, it’s more like they’ve burned beds with Latinos on them. Latino anger at Romney and the GOP is palpable, and won’t be easily satiated.
At Think Progress, Annie-Rose Strasser sees “Etch-A-Sketch” at work:
During the primary, when he only needed to appeal to hard right Republican voters, Mitt Romney promised to veto the DREAM Act, which provides young people who have lived much of their lives in the United States a path to citizenship. Now that Romney needs to appeal to Latinos in order to win the general election, however, he’s already breaking out his Etch-a-Sketch. This weekend he told a crowd at a private (but very audible) fundraiser that he would support a version of the DREAM Act.
This is a significant turnaround for Romney, who was extremely anti-immigrant for the bulk of the primary season. Indeed, Romney even campaigned with an anti-immigrant leader who has ties to hate groups and helped pen Arizona’s “show us your papers” bill — on Martin Luther King Day. But now, facing abysmal poll numbers among Latinos, Romney is changing his tune. “We’re going to be able to get Hispanic voters,” he said, “We’re going to overcome the issue of immigration”
Andrew Sullivan adds his perspective about the politics for Romney and the GOP:
I have no idea what that would look like, given Mitt Romney’s primary stands on immigration (to the right of almost everyone, including Gingrich and Perry). But it strikes me as something that will rile the base. How they react will be very instructive about the chances of Republican unity this summer and fall.
And, Avenging Angel at DailyKos thinks Romney’s solution might be to just declare himself Hispanic:
“We’re going to be able to get Hispanic voters,” Mitt Romney assured big-dollars donorsthis weekend, adding, “We’re going to overcome the issue of immigration.” How the Republican presidential nominee plans to do that is another matter.
After all, John McCain captured only 31 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008. A recent Pew Research poll shows Democrats enjoy a three-fold (and growing) advantage among registered Latino voters. As it turns out, the GOP’s list of Republican Latino candidatesincludes some who are neither. Worse still, Mitt’s high-profile backing by SB 1070 author Russell Pearce may put GOP stronghold Arizona in play. And on top of it, Romney is rapidly alienating Hispanics with his hardline rhetoric on immigration, talking points that include vetoing the DREAM Act and encouraging even long-time illegal immigrants to “self-deport.”
But Mitt Romney may still have one more card up his sleeve. Desperate to court Hispanic voters, Mitt Romney might simply declare himself one.