Newt Gingrich pulled a Spanish-language radio ad that called Mitt Romney "anti-immigrant" on Wednesday, but what's surprising is not that the ad aired, but that he gave Gingrich so much material to work with.
Latinos of both parties are surprised at how far Romney moved to the right on immigration during the primary campaign, BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith writes at Politico. He said he'd veto the Dream Act, which would let college students and members of the military become citizens. He spent several minutes during a primary debate in the fall arguing with Rick Perry over "illegals," which ended with Romney saying, "I'm running for office for Pete's sake. I can't have illegals." Monday night, Romney said his immigration policies would be tough enough that people would "self-deport." All Gingrich has to say to look like a radical moderate -- literally, this is what he says -- is that he wouldn't "deport grandmothers."
President Obama is weaker among Latinos than he was four years ago, according to a new poll from the right-leaning group Resurgent Republic. But if Romney is the nominee, he's going to have a hard time taking advantage of that.
"Romney has done himself some real damage," Florida Republican strategist Ana Navarro told Smith. "Romney has now thrown Obama a lifesaver on the issue. It’s been stupid and unnecessary. He could have been more nuanced and left himself room to maneuver."
Oddly, not only are Romney's immigration positions likely to hurt him in the long run, they don't appear to be based on a clear principle. He supports making it easier for high-skilled workers to get green cards to work in America -- in other words, he wants it to be easier to come here if workers are highly educated and middle class. But his position on the Dream Act -- letting military members become citizens but not college students -- means that if those workers are already here and aspire to become middle class by getting an education, that's a no-go.
In The Washington Post, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush offers four ways for Republicans to win back Latinos, but they seem closed off to Romney. Bush writes that like all voters, Laitnos want their candidates to empathize with their experience -- of being immigrants, of struggling with English. But Romney wants to make English the official language of the U.S. Bush says Republicans' pro-entrepreneur message appeals to immigrants who come here to make a better life for their families. But Romney doesn't support the Dream Act. Bush says "we need to think of immigration reform as an economic issue, not just a border security issue." Romney's position is to build a huge fence.
"It’s very tempting to come into an audience like this and to pander to the audience," Romney told Univision Wednesday. But his problem is he pandered to the wrong crowd.