Like a comedian at an open-mic night, Romney is using the extended primary to try out new material. But, his latest attempt at a Blake Griffin dunk went ugly and fell flat. Most notably, he is trying to soften his own language on immigration while simultaneously bringing President Obama’s immigration record into question. Unfortunately for Romney, it’s a one-two punch that he can’t quite land.
“He campaigned saying he was going to reform immigration laws and simplify and protect the border and so forth, and then he had two years with a Democrat House and Democrat Senate and a super majority in each House, and he did nothing,” Romney told supporters recently at a Wisconsin oil distributorship. “So let the immigrant community not forget that while he uses this as a political weapon, he does not take responsibility for fixing the problems we have.”
That attack is misleading on two fronts.
Although the President has not been able to deliver on comprehensive reform, his administration has been able to deliver on border safety. Through bilateral work with the Mexican government and increased resources at the border, the Obama administration has accomplished a decline in crime in border states, a decrease of illegal migration, and tampered down spillover of violence from Mexico.
At the same time, President Obama’s party has pushed systemic reform efforts. In 2010, Democrats introduced the DREAM Act which narrowly passed the House and died in the Senate, with largely partisan votes, and more comprehensive reforms have been impeded by a lack of Republicans willing to co-sponsor bipartisan legislation.
Even worse for Romney, raising immigration gives Team Obama a wide opening to revisit an issue on which the Republican frontrunner is vulnerable.
“Mitt Romney’s attempt to Etch-a-Sketch his record on immigration has begun. But his extreme positions on immigration, can’t be erased,” the Obama campaign fired back in a statement. “He has campaigned with the nation’s leading anti-immigrant voices, promised to veto the DREAM Act, and wants to encourage all undocumented immigrants to self-deport. He would have the most extreme immigration platform of any presidential nominee in recent history.”
As Mitt Romney consolidates his victories and looks for his Arnold Palmer moment, as President Obama for the first time addresses Romney as his likely opponent, the contours of the race are clear: two competing visions of America, tied closely to economic basics. Any time Romney steps out of this box, he’s in dangerous territory. On immigration, he won’t find himself on the rim. If Romney wants to pick a fight with President Obama, he should pick it on an issue that he might actually win.