Over the past couple weeks, immigration has become one of the most contentious issues in the GOP presidential contest. Mitt Romney has tried to portray himself as the hardest of the hard core anti-immigrant voices in the race. He has become the leading voice for mass deportation. Romney’s campaign has used the immigration issue to attack Rick Perry, and now, he’s going after Newt Gingrich.
Romney’s positions have changed over the years — and over the past couple days.
At Daily Kos, Jed Lewison took a crack at dissecting the Romney record on immigration and offered this analysis:
In 2006, Romney supported deporting some undocumented immigrants but allowing others to remain in the United States to gain legal status.
In the 2008 campaign, Romney switched positions and supported deportation for all undocumented immigrants, but also said they should be allowed to apply for permanent residency or citizenship once they have left the U.S.
Last Tuesday, Romney initially took an absolute hardline, saying he opposed allowing any undocumented immigrants to become permanent residents. He then implicitly contradicted himself by saying he wouldn’t draw lines about “who gets to stay and who gets to go.”
On Wednesday, Romney appeared to return to his 2008 campaign position, saying he supported allowing undocumented immigrants to become permanent residents, but only if they were first deported.
If you’re confused by all that, you’re not alone. I think I count four different positions, three of them taken in the past week alone. And that’s not just a flip-flop. It’s a flip-flop-dodge, and it’s Mitt Romney’s specialty.
No doubt, we’ll hear more from Romney over the next days and weeks. But the hard-line position won’t serve him well if he secures the nomination. Via “The Note” at ABC News:
A recent poll by Univision and Latino Decisions got right to the heart of the issue. In the poll, registered voters were asked if they were more or less likely to back a candidate who supported an immigration system based on the assimilation model or the criminal model.
While 37 percent of Republicans responded that they were more likely to back a candidate who supported the criminal model, 35 percent said they were more likely to back a candidate who supported the assimilation model — a statistically insignificant difference between the two factions.
When the question was asked of Democrats, they sided greatly in favor of the assimilation model: 58 percent of Democrats said they were more likely to back a candidate who supported the assimilation model, compared to only 16 percent in favor of the criminal model.
Independents, too, favored the assimilation model with 44 percent saying they were more likely to back a candidate who supported that approach and only 18 percent endorsing the criminal model.
In addition, of the Republicans who were interviewed for the poll, 31 percent said they were less likely to back a candidate who supported the criminal model, while 17 percent said they were less likely to vote for a candidate who employed the assimilation approach.
“Overall, the story is that the assimilation model is more helpful and less harmful among Democrats and Independents, while the criminal model is only marginally helpful but relatively more harmful among Republicans,” Northern Arizona University professor Stephen A. Nuno said.
If Romney doesn’t believe the numbers, he should talk to Meg Whitman.