Democrats and the Obama campaign today launched a two-pronged attack against Mitt Romney on immigration, all using none other than Newt Gingrich as their message bearer.
In a new web video, that simply replays the exchange between Romney and Gingrich at last night’s debate, the DNC attempts to paint Romney as dishonest, insensitive and impractical in his approach to the nation’s estimated 12 million illegal immigrants — 70 percent of whom have lived in the U.S. for 10 years or more, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
“On immigration, who is being honest about the challenges we face?” reads the opening question in the montage. Gingrich, who said he’s “prepared to take the heat” for creating a pathway to legality for some illegal immigrants, is portrayed as the candidate with the most honest and reasonable answer.
“Let’s be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship, but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families,” Gingrich said Tuesday night.
In an afternoon conference call, Democrats cautiously praised Gingrich while hammering Romney as a flip-flopper given his previous support for comprehensive immigration reform that would have included a pathway to legalization for some illegal immigrants.
“It is interesting where former Speaker Gingrich came from…The truth is he’s correct,” said Congressional Hispanic Caucus chairman Rep. Charles Gonzalez, D-Texas. “I’m hoping former Speaker Gingrich doesn’t start walking back from it.”
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt blasted Romney for walking back his support for a similar idea. “Now he’s a candidate who’s absolutely demagogue the issue of immigration in a politically craven way because he believes it serves his political interests,” LaBolt said. “He is the most right-wing presidential candidate in recent presidential history on this issue.”
At a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, this morning, Romney doubled down on his position that illegal immigrants should not be granted any “special preference with regards to becoming a permanent resident or citizen” but did not clarify whether that means the government should actively pursue deportation for all 12 million.
“That’s my view and probably by the time this campaign is open we’ll all come out with our extensive immigration reform plans,” he told reporters. “But my view is that people who come here illegally should not have a special break or a special pathway to become permanent residents or citizens of this country.”
Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement to ABC News that the effort to vilify Romney over immigration was a ploy to distract attention from President Obama’s economic record.
“President Obama has failed to create a single net new job and has wreaked more havoc on the middle class than any president in modern history. The last thing the White House wants is Mitt Romney as an opponent – which explains their obsessive focus on him and their ‘all hands on deck’ approach to their strategy of ‘kill Romney,’” Saul said. “They’ll try anything they can to distract voters from President Obama’s record of failure but it’s not going to work.”