What is Romney's Immigration Plan? Don't Ask the RNC Hispanic Outreach Director
Romney seems to be keeping true to the the "etch-a-sketch" strategy. A couple months back, in primary mode, Romney touted Arizona's SB1070 as a "model" for the country. These days it's quite unclear where Romney stands as an RNC Hispanic Outreach Director today pointed out. The statement was retracted via Twitter, but little has been cleared up.
The Republican National Committee has a message for Hispanic voters: Pay no attention to immigration this election year.
The national party apparatus is gearing up to reach out to Hispanics by deploying outreach directors in key states as part of their most organized grass-roots effort to connect with those voters yet.
But at a briefing with reporters Tuesday morning to tout the effort, senior officials for the new program talked about anything other than the hot-potato issue of immigration, focusing instead on the economy and jobs.
RNC Hispanic Outreach Director Bettina Inclán fumbled when asked to defend likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s views on immigration, which were hit by some Republicans and observers during the primary as being too extreme and a liability in the general election.
“I think as a candidate, to my understanding, he’s still deciding what his position on immigration is,” Inclán said. “So I can’t talk about what his proposal is going to be because I don’t know.”
The corrections came quickly.
A few minutes after Inclán’s statement, RNC spokeswoman Kristen Kukowski interrupted the briefing to explain that Romney does indeed have a position on immigration, but the RNC just wasn’t prepared to talk about it. She added that Romney has only been the presumptive nominee for a few weeks, and the RNC and campaign haven’t completed the transition process.
After the briefing ended, Inclán tweeted that she “misspoke,” and pointed to a link to Romney’s Web site where the campaign outlines his position on immigration.
For a campaign that is already grappling with criticism that Romney tends to flip-flop on the important issues, the RNC comments were not particularly helpful.
A Romney spokeswoman referred to Inclán’s tweet when asked about the RNC comments and then provided the campaign Web site page that outlines Romney’s immigration positions.
“She misspoke and said she did,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul responded.
The episode also illustrates a bigger point — that the RNC would rather not talk about immigration, especially when it comes to Hispanic voters, who will be a key voting bloc in the 2012 race.
When asked how the GOP could connect with Hispanic voters without talking about immigration, Inclán disputed the notion that the only thing the demographic cares about as whole is that issue.
“People continue to pretend that the only thing Hispanics care about is immigration,” she said. “Most Hispanics were born here in this country. We are American citizens. While immigration is an important issue, we are American citizens. So to assume that the only thing we care about is immigration is false.”
Polls offer a contrary view.
A poll conducted in January of Latino voters by Latino Decisions for Univision News and ABC News, found that 46 percent of those surveyed listed immigration as the most important issue. It was a close second to jobs and the economy, which was listed as the most important issue by 50 percent of those polled.
Inclán tried to turn the tables on Obama by arguing that he has deported more immigrants than any president in American history.
Does that mean a Romney administration would deport less?
“I’m talking about the president’s record and what he’s done,” Inclán responded. “I can’t dictate what’s going to happen in the future.”
That talking point also would appear to be in direct contradiction to Romney’s positions.
“President Obama has utterly failed to secure the border,” Romney’s campaign website reads. “And instead of taking a strong stand on illegal immigration, he has ordered immigration officials to enforce immigration laws ‘selectively,’ leading to the dismissal of many deportation cases.”