Romney and the Hispanic vote
Despite Mitt Romney's strong gains in the polls after his performance in the first presidential debate, he still trails Obama by large margins among Hispanic voters. The latest Latino Decisions poll has Obama beating Romney 72-20 among the demographic.
In attempting to win the Hispanic vote, it appears that Mitt Romney is abandoning the previously tough stand on immigration he took during the Republican primary. He recently said he would honor Obama's unconstitutional executive-order amnesty, and, perhaps most tellingly, he has even abandoned some key supporters, such as Kris Kobach.
Last month at a Univision Forum, it was suggested to Romney that "there are some Hispanics who are concerned" with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped write Arizona's SB 1070 and many other state laws that address illegal immigration, as an informal adviser to the Romney campaign.
Romney responded that Kobach "may well be part of a policy team," but that "I have not met with him yet. And don't know whether he is or he is not." In fact, as stated above, Kobach is an informal adviser to Mitt Romney and had met with him on many occasions. During the Republican primaries, Romney had trumpeted Kobach's endorsement, calling him "a true leader on securing our borders and stopping the flow of illegal immigration into this country" and stating that "[w]e need more conservative leaders like Kris willing to stand up for the rule of law."
Romney's campaign quickly issued a correction, with CNN reporting:
[A] spokesman for the Romney campaign said Romney and Kobach have, in fact, met before at campaign events - but not in formal policy meetings. The aide said that in Monday's radio interview, Romney was referring to policy meetings, which Kobach does not participate in.
Liberals were quick to take Romney's apparent contradiction as an opportunity to slam Kobach. Obama spokeswoman Gabriela Domenzain said, "From enthusiastically welcoming his endorsement to letting him write the most extreme Republican platform on immigration in modern history, Mitt Romney has made it clear that Kris Kobach and him are partners in extremism."
Writing in the Huffington Post, David Leopold argued that Mitt Romney had a "Kris Kobach problem," calling Kobach a "radical anti-immigrant lawyer" who is part of the "dark corner of the anti-immigrant fringe" that promotes an "extremist nativist agenda."
Leftists were huffing and puffing about Kobach even before the Univision interview. During the Republican Convention, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said, "They didn't just have Susana Martinez and Marco Rubio. They also had Kris Kobach, the author of the Alabama and Arizona laws." Geraldo Rivera went as far as saying that Kobach "may single-handedly be costing Mitt Romney and the Republicans the White House."
What exactly has Kris Kobach done to earn such smears? He crafted state level E-Verify laws that polls show 78% of voters support, including a majority of Hispanics. Kobach also helped draft Arizona's SB 1070, which Americans support by a 2-1 margin, including large majorities of independent voters. While Hispanics do not support immigration control by as large a margin, it is worth noting that their support for Obama has little to do with his economic policy. According to the Wall Street Journal/NBC/Telemundo poll, Hispanic voters prefer Obama to Romney on health care, foreign policy, and taxes in similar margins to their support of Obama on immigration.
Mitt Romney's biggest problem with voters is not that they think he is too far to the right on immigration; it is that they view him -- rightly or wrongly -- as someone who lacks principles and will flip-flop. Incidentally, Romney has been pretty consistent on opposing illegal immigration. As governor, Romney vetoed bills to provide in-state tuition and driver's licenses for illegal aliens. During his 2008 presidential run, he hammered John McCain's support for amnesty. In 2012, he did the same to Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich.
Romney's equivocation on Kobach and immigration is not going to appease any pro-amnesty voters, but it will further the perception that he is a flip-flopper. Romney should restate his opposition to amnesty, support for E-Verify, and support for states like Arizona that helped him win the Republican nomination.