Romney before Latinos
Romney before Latinos Reuters

Mitt Romney delivered an address today before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.  Romney is in a delicate position following Barack Obama's gambit of declaring that he will not deport illegal aliens below the age of 30, under the assumption that they came to the United States as minors and therefore did not have a say in breaching US immigration rules.

Romney cannot appear before a Hispanic audience and effectively tell them to drop dead. The Obama campaign will begin gleefully comparing John McCain's more liberal immigration policy during the 2008 campaign and the hardline Romney policy.

Nor can Romney afford to match or raise Obama's bid for the Hispanic votes by promising lenience to illegal immigration. This would alienate his base and revive charges that Romney is inconsistent and adjusts his positions to the political wind. During the primaries, Romney campaigned as an implacable foe of illegal immigration and he cannot reverse himself as it's all on film and on record.

Therefore, what we saw in the speech was an attempt by Romney to show that he takes the Hispanics seriously, while offering them a different horizon on the immigration issue.

As he has done previously when other issues threaten to divert attention from the economy, Romney recited statistics on how Hispanics have been particularly disadvantaged by Obama's stewardship over the economy. He also chided President Obama for offering a stopgap solution at the 11th hour before the election in a transparent attempt to win over Hispanics.

After three and a half years of putting every issue from loan guarantees for his donors to Cash For Clunkers before immigration, now the President has been seized by an overwhelming need to do what he could have done on Day One. I think you deserve better.

The audience, however, was waiting to hear from Romney on immigration. Romney maintained that he would secure the border and would work to deport illegals who had overstayed their visa. With this preface, Romney reassured the Republican base. He then attempted to reach out to the Hispanic audience.

Romney would make legal immigration easier, with an emphasis of reuniting families where one member had already legally arrived in the states. Here Romney tried to establish a connection between liberalized immigration and support of the family - a crucial issue to his base. He would also attach a green card to diplomas in a bid to keep the best and brightest amongst the immigrants in the United States.   Romney paid tribute to immigrants as being more inclined to demonstrate entrepreneurship and create jobs. Finally, those serving in the US Armed Forces would have a fast-track for legal immigration.

Romney wanted Hispanic votes and he warned his listeners that Obama was taking the Hispanic vote for granted. "Your vote should be respected."

The audience was cool to Romney during his 17 min. speech but Romney did receive a favorable review from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who is married to a Hispanic and speaks Spanish fluently. Bush has been critical about the lack of Republican outreach to Hispanics, but he showered praise on Romney's efforts.

It was a great speech….I was real impressed with it. I’m glad he came. I really am.”

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