ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: It sure doesn’t look like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is afraid of the politics of immigration.
On a conference call today with conservative bloggers, McCain launched his sharpest attack yet on former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., who has begun running television advertisements criticizing the immigration reform bill McCain is championing in the Senate.
"Maybe I should wait a couple weeks and see if it changes," McCain said of Romney’s position on immigration. "Maybe his solution will be to get out his small-varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn."
Listen to McCain’s comments by clicking here.
This is actually a triple-barreled attack wrapped into two sentences. It takes on Romney for his shifting positions, his claim to have been a regular hunter when in fact he has only occasionally hunted small game, and a Boston Globe story that reported that Romney’s one-time landscaping firm employed undocumented immigrants from Guatemala.
McCain also responded to former senator Fred Thompson’s, R-Tenn., critique of the bill. Thompson, who was one of McCain’s biggest supporters in 2000, has also sharply criticized the bill brokered by McCain.
Despite the fact that Thompson has yet to enter the presidential fray, the Arizona Senator labeled that a shift by non-declared actor turned politician.
"I’m a little disappointed in Fred, because, again, he had a different position not that long ago," McCain said.
In the last congressional session, Romney spoke of a roughly similar immigration bill in favorable terms, calling it a "reasonable proposal."
But Romney has blasted the latest version of the bill as "a form of amnesty," citing the new visa classification that would give undocumented immigrants legal status.
The Romney camp responded to McCain’s attack within hours.
"It seems that certain candidates who brokered this flawed plan are having a very difficult time grappling with or coming to terms with the political fallout that has ensued in a substantive manner," said Kevin Madden, a Romney spokesman.