It goes without saying the Supreme Court debate over SB1070 Arizona’s immigration law is likely to have a significant impact in the coming general election. The high court knows how to pick them and its been picking the most politically toxic of cases to run on its docket as of late.
The candidate’s stances on the law are sure to be litmus tests for many Hispanic voters. While the President is firmly against the law, Mitt Romney’s stance shines a harsh light on his ties to many of the authors of the bill, his serious problems with Hispanic voters – and his reputation as a political opportunist.
By all accounts Romney was a moderate Republican Governor when he was in Massachusetts – but, then he moved. Years later in a brutal GOP primary, he attempted to placate Tea Party Republicans suspicious of his campaign. So, one easy way to go about that: take hard right stances on immigration issues.
As a result, a recent NBC/WSJ poll reports that Romney’s favorability gap with Hispanic is at 23 percent favorable 42 percent unfavorable. A CNN/Opinion Research Poll reports that 71 percent of Hispanic’s polled are opposed to the bill.
Not surprisingly, Romney has begun toning down his rhetoric on this issue. However, what he is saying and doing has been two different things. Nowhere is this more apparent than his stance on Arizona’s SB1070.
To his credit Romney has begun to distance himself from immigration hardliners including Kris Kobach the author of SB1070. Despite Romney’s statements to the otherwise, Kobach claims he still advises the campaign on immigration daily. Romney has also begun to embrace more moderate Republican strategists such as Ed Gillespie, a Republican who specializes in the Hispanic vote, as a senior advisor to his campaign.
He has even floated Florida Senator Marco Rubio as a possible VP pick, a decision that is already paying dividends. Rubio recently gave Romney cover on a controversial statement he made in a primary debate about Arizona’s law being a model for the country. The Florida star recently said that he does not believe that the law should be a model for the country. The Romney campaign then clarified his previous statement, saying that their candidate was referring to E-Verify, an employment verification tool, not SB1070 and that Romney’s views were consistent with Rubio’s.
Despite clarifying his comments on Arizona’s immigration law Romney is not shying away from his connections to the drafters of the policy. He has received the endorsements of the bill’s authors and main supporters in Russell Pearce, Kris Kobach and Jan Brewer. Why, because after alienating women and Hispanic voters, he needs the conservative wing of his party if he has any chance of winning this election.
In another example of actions speaking louder than his words two days before the Supreme Court was set to hear opening arguments, Romney held several fundraisers and a rally in Arizona. Since his campaign has skillfully obscured his position on the Arizona law, the real question for the general election is what roles are Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Governor Jan Brewer, Sheriff Paul Babeu and former state Senator Russell Pearce going to play in the national campaign this fall?
For general election voters broadly and Hispanic voters in particular this is just another instance of Mitt Romney trying to have it both ways. He accepts the endorsement of the authors of the legislation, yet attempts to muddy his views on it. Who knows exactly what Romney thinks as he is only speaking through his campaign, and they are parroting another politician’s stance. In the end, Congressman Xavier Becerra, said it best: “There’s a saying in Spanish that says it all: Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres. Tell me with whom you walk and I will tell you who you are. We now know who Mitt Romney is.”