Is it any coincidence that on the day that the latest Latino Decisions poll has Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney down 53 points in a weekly tracking poll of US Latino voters, Romney gives an interview with The Denver Post and basically says that he would honor President Obama's deferred action executive order that allows for young undocumented individuals to remain in the United States and not be deported?
Talk about facing a last-gasp situation. As the clock ticks to the election, the prospect of the 38% national number Romney's campaign was hoping to capture from US Latino voters is dwindling quickly. According to Latino Decisions, however, even though Romney is trailing President Obama 73%-21% in the latest national tracking poll, the numbers in swing states only is Obama 61% and Romney 33%. Colorado is one of those swing states, and Denver is the site of tomorrow's first national debate between the candidates.
So what better time for Romney to take a gamble and try to take a more moderate stance on immigration. As The Post reports:
Young illegal immigrants who receive temporary work permits to stay in the United States under an executive order issued by President Barack Obama would not be deported under a Mitt Romney administration, the GOP presidential hopeful told The Denver Post Monday. "
The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid. I'm not going to take something that they've purchased," Romney said. "Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I've proposed."
The story continues:
Romney said in a sit-down interview with The Post aboard his campaign bus ahead of a Denver rally that he would work with Congress in the first year to pass permanent immigration reform legislation.
He didn't furnish specifics on that plan, but has said in previous interviews that students who served in the military may get a path to citizenship.
"I actually will propose a piece of legislation which will reform our immigration system to improve legal immigration so people don't have to hire lawyers to figure out how to get here legally," Romney said. "The president promised in his first year, his highest priority, that he would reform immigration and he didn't. And I will."
Granted, most would agree that President Obama's immigration record has been spotty at best, and he continues to face criticism for record deportations and supporting Secure Communities. However, to suddenly think that Romney has seen the light and changed his tune after consistently pushing the same old, same old "build a fence and keep em out" mentality that has become the calling card of neo-nativists is a bit naive as well. This is political desperation, and the quotes he gave The Post really don't reveal much. Sure, Romney promises not to take away any purchased visas but what about after the fact? What is behind the curtain? Our take is that US Latino voters don't really want to know or take the risk. The current poll numbers seem to confirm it.
It is hard for Romney and his campaign. They truly don't want to admit the truth: they screwed up on their Latino outreach. Last year they HAD to make the strategic move to be harder on immigration that Texas Governor Rick Perry, who had entered the GOP primaries as the front-runner. The rhetoric and words from Romney ("self-deportation," admiration of Arizona's SB 1070 law, etc.) turned off countless US Latino voters who were actually looking for other options than President Obama. Add a private joke and the Univision appearance that has become social media legend, and it appears that the vast majority of US Latino voters have moved on.
And that is the problem, because as one recent piece said about Latino voters in Nevada, "It's immigration, stupid."
Time for the Hail Mary.
Is it too late for Romney to win the hearts and minds of US Latino voters? Yes. Fact is, he probably never had a chance once his campaign made a tactical error last year that still lingers.