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Mitt Romney Moonwalks to the Center on Immigration

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Mitt Romney trying to un-offend Latinos at a campaign stop with Sen. Marco Rubio, a Cuban American, at his side.
Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images

How do you spell doom?

For Mitt Romney it's "L-A-T-I-N-O-S."

The Romney campaign made the strategic decision in the primary campaign to prove Mitt's commitment to the the base by outflanking the entire field on immigration. Romney appointed former California governor (and anti-immigrant crusader) Pete Wilson as a campaign co-chair, he embraced Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, and touted the intellectual architect of that state's racist immigration law, Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, as "a true leader on securing our borders and stopping the flow of illegal immigration into this country." Romney endorsed Arizona's draconian anti-immigrant law, SB 1070 (now before the Supreme Court), as a "model" for the nation, promised to build a border fence, vowed to veto the DREAM Act, called self-deportation "the answer" to undocumented immigrants living in America, and preached so much hate that even Rick Perry told him, "I don't think you have a heart."

The GOP nomination is finally in the bag. But as a consequence of his anti-immigrant rhetoric, Romney's numbers with Latino voters are barely in double digits. One poll shows Obama leading him 70-14. At a private fundraiser overheard by reporters, Romney warned,  "We have to get Hispanic voters to vote for our party," because their flight to Obama "spells doom for us."

Indeed, the signs of electoral-college collapse are nigh in the desert southwest, where the Latino vote is most powerful. Polling in New Mexico, the region's traditional swing state, shows Obama up on Romney 52-36. He's up by a similarly shellacking margin in Colorado, 53-40. George W. Bush took Nevada in 2004, but Obama leads there 51-43 — despite the state's worst-in-the-nation 12 percent unemployment rate and the fact that an astonishing 58 percent of Nevada homeowners are underwater on their mortgages. A poll out of Arizona yesterday indicates the state is now a tossup, with Romney up just 2 points 42-40.

So what's Romney solution? He's trying to moonwalk back to the center on immigration.

First, an unnamed staffer told right-wing scribe Fred Barnes that Romney's "private view of immigration isn't as anti-immigrant as he often sounded." Next the campaign tried to "Kobach-track." Romney had previously celebrated the anti-immigrant demagogue as a part of his "team." But the campaign began began telling reporters that Kobach was only a "supporter." Kobach bucked this demotion, insisting "I communicate regularly with senior members of Romney’s team." (The campaign now calls him an "informal adviser.")

Last week, the Romney camp tried to shade Mitt's support of SB 1070. On Monday, Romney made the rounds with prospective runningmate Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, suddenly insisting he was open to a variant of the DREAM Act, granting legal status to undocumented immigrant children who complete college, which he'd previously vowed to veto. And on Tuesday, top Romney surrogate John McCain started straight-up lying about Romney's record, insisting that the GOP candidate never endorsed self-deportation and lashing out at reporters: "Don't put words in his mouth."

Unfortunately for the Romney campaign, the record of Mitt's immigrant bashing is not so easily disappeared:

 

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