Felicia Sonmez, Washington Post, May 8, 2012
A Republican National Committee roundtable on Tuesday aimed at highlighting the GOP’s Hispanic get-out-the-vote effort ended up backfiring as the RNC’s director of Hispanic outreach struggled to explain to reporters Republicans’ message to Hispanics when it comes to immigration.
Part of the reason for the RNC’s difficulty: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) is “still deciding what his position on immigration is,” as RNC Hispanic Outreach Director Bettina Inclán termed it.
The episode underscored the difficulty for Romney and Republicans more broadly as they seek to court a key constituency this year.
Polls show President Obama currently besting Romney among Hispanics by as much as a 47-percent margin; adding to the challenge for Romney is the fact that he has emerged from a GOP primary race in which he tacked to the right on immigration.
While Republicans are aiming to woo Hispanic voters with a scaled-back version of the DREAM Act spearheaded by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Romney has yet to take a position on the proposal.
As Republicans and the Romney campaign have emphasized more broadly, “the number-one issue is jobs and the economy,” Inclán said.
“I know that you want to talk to (Hispanic voters) about being disappointed in Obama about the economy,” asked a reporter. “Is that something that you’ll address on immigration, and what would that message be?”
Inclán responded by slamming Obama for failing to enact immigration reform — and also for his administration’s record number of deportations.
“Hispanics are incredibly disappointed on President Obama and immigration,” Inclán said. “This is a president who as a candidate promised immigration reform; promised it in his first year. Three years later, we still don’t even have a plan. He talked about uniting families and all he’s done is deport more immigrants than any president in American history.”
Asked how the RNC would respond if Hispanic voters said that the GOP’s policy would be to deport even more people, Inclán did not answer but instead turned the focus back on Obama, who she argued “didn’t make the issues he promised the Hispanic community a priority.”
Did that mean that the GOP’s position is that Democrats have deported more people than Republicans would, asked another reporter.
Inclán responded that when it comes to immigration policy, she “can’t dictate what’s going to happen in the future.”
Later Monday afternoon, Inclán said via Twitter that she “misspoke” and that Romney’s “position on immigration is clear.” She linked to a page on the Romney campaign Web site that lays out the GOP nominee’s immigration stance.
That page, however, is at odds with at least part of the RNC’s message on Obama and deportation. It states that “instead of taking a strong stand on illegal immigration, (Obama) has ordered immigration officials to enforce immigration laws ‘selectively,’ leading to the dismissal of many deportation cases.”