Immigration a Tough Issue for Mitt Romney

Experts say Republican's hard stance during primary may hurt him against Obama in general election

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"He could have gotten away with a stance closer to Gingrich's. I don't think people who would have opposed him on immigration grounds were going to support him anyway, to be frank."

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Obama's popularity with Latinos has waned since 2008 because of his failure to live up to expectations related to immigration reform, Galston says, but Romney's "very blunt and unyielding statements" will prevent him from capitalizing on the incumbent's weakness.

Romney's position has not gone unnoticed by Democrats. On Wednesday, two top House Democrats held a conference call with reporters to denounce both his pledge to veto the DREAM Act as president and his implication that the measure amounts to a "handout." The proposed legislation would provide a path to citizenship for immigrants who arrived in the country as minors, had lived here for at least five years, and had either served in the military for two years or completed four years of college.

Texas Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and California Rep. Xavier Becerra, vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Romney's position was harmful to the Hispanic community and would alienate Latinos from supporting him.

"My best guess is that as the Republican nominee, [Romney] would not do a heck of a lot better with that community than McCain did in 2008," says Galston.

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