President Obama on Friday craftily announced a major shift on immigration policy, just a few hours after Republican rival Mitt Romney hit the road on his “Every Town Counts” bus tour. Former Republican National Committee chairman and BET.com commentator Michael Steele called it a “gotcha” move and his fellow GOPers complained over the weekend that it was purely “politics.” Maybe so, but as they well know, in an election this tight, every vote counts and both Obama and Romney will need every Latino one that they can get in November.
As Romney’s caravan rolled from state to state, he hoped to turn the media’s attention to his criticisms of Obama’s handling of the economy. Instead, they wanted to know if he would repeal the president’s executive order that prevents an estimated 800,000 young Latinos from being deported if they meet certain criteria and also enables them to work legally in the U.S.
So, where does he stand? The answer only Romney knows as he repeatedly dodged the question or gave vague responses.
“He has a great allergy to specifics and details,” conservative columnist and commentator Rich Lowry said on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday. “And he actually said in an interview a little while ago that he thinks one of the things that hurt him in his 1994 race against Ted Kennedy was that he was too specific so it creates these targets for the other side.”
But Romney was very specific on his way to the nomination, suggesting that illegal immigrants “self-deport,” taking a very hard-line stance on immigration to win the hearts and votes of die-hard conservatives.
So now he’s stuck in part because those same conservatives don’t want to hear about comprehensive immigration reform. That’s why it also will be interesting to hear what Romney has to say when he addresses a conference of Latino elected officials later in the week.
The big question is: Will he say what he means or what he thinks Hispanics or conservatives want to hear? Unfortunately for Romney, he can’t have it both ways.