Mitt Romney, who took a strongly conservative stance on immigration during state primaries, continues to try and find a way to appeal to Latino voters who don't share his position.
Mitt Romney's campaign released a video Monday to remind voters of President Obama's recent claim that "the private sector is doing fine" in a new Spanish-language television advertisement, an attempt to compete for critical Hispanic votes.
The Republican presidential nominee wants to keep the focus on Obama's stewardship of the struggling economy and not on the contrasts of their stances on immigration policy, particularly in light of the administration's announcement last Friday that it would relax deportations of young illegal immigrants brought to the United States through no fault of their own.
The ad reminds viewers that 23 million Americans are un- or underemployed or have stopped looking for work and the unemployment rate among Hispanics is 11 percent, about three points higher than the rate across all demographics, and that median household incomes have declined $4,300 since Obama took office.
It then plays—and replays—a video clip of the president saying "the private sector is doing fine."
It's questionable if Romney be able to woo such voters, who typically support Democrats anyway, even if they are disappointed in Obama and the economy. He promised to veto legislation, known as the DREAM act, which would create a path for citizenship for children of illegal immigrants who graduate from college or serve in the military and shunned anything akin to amnesty. He also insisted that immigrants here illegally would have to return home before applying for legal status.
In one Republican primary debate last fall, Romney said, "Amnesty is a magnet. People respond to incentives, and if you could become a permanent resident of the United States by coming here illegally, you'll do so."
But since securing the GOP nod, Romney has begun to soften his stance, as many expected he might. He has campaigned with possible vice presidential pick, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is working on his own conservative version of the DREAM act. Romney said he would be open to supporting this yet-to-be-drafted legislation.
Following the Obama administration's announcement, the Romney campaign released a statement signaling his continued shift on the topic since the primary.
"I believe the status of young people who come here through no fault of their own is an important matter to be considered and should be solved on a long-term basis, so they know what their future would be in this country," Romney said. "I'd like to see legislation that deals with this issue and I happen to agree with Marco Rubio as he looked at this issue. If I'm president, we'll do our very best to have that kind of long-term solution that provides certainty and clarity for the people who come into this country through no fault of their own by virtue of the action of their parents."
Romney also argued that by issuing an executive order to effect the change, rather than push through a legislative measure, Obama is making a long-term solution more difficult.
"The action the president took makes it more difficult to reach that long-term solution because an executive order is, of course, just a short-term matter—it can be reversed by subsequent presidents," said Romney. The former Massachusetts governor declined to answer whether or not he would reverse the order if elected when asked by reporters last week.
The path Romney is trying to negotiate—broadening his appeal to Hispanics without alienating the far right—is made more difficult by his reputation as someone willing to say whatever is most politically expedient. The more he drifts back to the center from his more conservative positions, the less credible he becomes to both his base and independent voters.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.