The biggest news coming out of Mitt Romney’s speech to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference today is that he appeared to soften his stance on illegal immigration (as expected after the primary) and even endorsed a key portion of the DREAM Act that provides a path to citizenship. The Hill reports:
He also reversed course on a key part of the DREAM Act, pledging to provide permanent residency for illegal immigrants who came to the United States and children and graduate from college. This is a major shift from Romney’s message in the GOP primaries, when he only pledged to provide that path for illegal immigrants who serve in the military.
Will this be enough to convince Hispanic voters, after the tougher tone Romney took during the primaries? Maybe not, but one possible saving grace for Romney is that his opponent has also been far from perfect on these issues. Immigration reform advocates had placed enormous hope in Obama after his repeated promises in 2008, and he never came through. It’s not lost on them that the president waited until mere months before his next election to issue some quick-bandaid deportation guidelines — and only when he was backed into a wall by the possibility that Sen. Marco Rubio could co-opt the issue.
Romney highlighted Obama’s broken promises, playing into a concern that many Hispanic leaders have held for awhile. Namely, that politicians talk a good game to them during election seasons, but don’t follow through and never expect any electoral consequences:
“Tomorrow, President Obama will speak here, for the first time since his last campaign. He may admit that he hasn’t kept every promise. And he’ll probably say that, even though you aren’t better off today than you were four years ago, things could be worse,” Romney said.
“He’ll imply that you really don’t have an alternative. He’s taking your vote for granted,” Romney continued. “I’ve come here today with a simple message: You do have an alternative. Your vote should be respected. And your voice is more important now than ever before.”
This is probably the strongest case Romney can make to Hispanic voters, as long as he couples it with serious proposals on immigration reform and keeps the emphasis on the economy and unemployment. He’s obviously never going to win the Hispanic vote, and he probably won’t even come close. But if he can convince people that he’s not an anti-immigration zealot, and that there should be consequences for Obama’s broken promises, then maybe he can make a dent in the huge wave of Hispanic support the Obama campaign is counting on.