New York Times reporters have been hammering away at Mitt Romney over his handling of the immigration issue, using last week's Supreme Court decision that unanimously upheld the main component of Arizona's immigration enforcement law to portray him as in an awkward and defensive position with Latino voters (while downplaying the fact that illegal immigration is a lower priority for Latinos than employment).
Campaign reporter Jeff Zeleny said on PBS's Washington Week last Friday that Romney "really took a hard right stance during this Republican primary nomination" on immigration enforcement, and several minutes of Friday's TimesCast were devoted to portraying Romney on the defensive.
Times reporters Trip Gabriel and Helene Cooper tried again Tuesday: "On the Campaign Trail, Obama and Romney React to the Justices' Decision."
The Supreme Court’s decision on Arizona’s strict immigration law gave President Obama another shot at energizing Latino voters, while Mitt Romney defended states’ aggressive efforts to fight illegal immigration.
Mr. Romney, who was visiting Arizona for a fund-raising event, used the ruling to appeal to conservatives concerned about border security.
“I believe that each state has the duty -- and the right -- to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities,” he said in a statement.
His outreach efforts came after an order by Mr. Obama to lift deportation threats for a much larger group of illegal immigrants, including those pursuing college.
Some Republican strategists feared that Mr. Romney’s gesture was too little, too late.
To demonstrate the depth of the problem Republicans have with Latinos, the paper even passed along some faint praise for one of its chief cartoon villains, Republican operative Karl Rove:
In a sign that some national Republicans want to see more bridges built on immigration, Crossroads GPS, an independent advocacy group co-founded by Karl Rove, announced its support on Monday for a bipartisan bill in Congress that would let foreign-born students in technology and science stay and work in the country.
But a prominent view in the Romney campaign is that he has no need to further court Hispanics on immigration. A new survey from Gallup on Monday showed that Latino voters ranked immigration only fifth in importance, behind health care and a host of economic concerns.
The Times also boosted Obama with electoral happy talk.
While many Democrats nationwide say they are not sure whether Mr. Obama has a chance to win Arizona, traditionally a Republican stronghold, Ms. Tovar said the Supreme Court decision could help him.
It could also bolster his chances in other Western states with large Hispanic populations like Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.
Gabriel and Cooper suggest Romney is whistling past a political graveyard.
The Romney campaign’s attitude, though, seemed to be that this too shall pass. One adviser on Hispanic issues said he expected the advantage to Mr. Obama to last a day or so, until an even weightier Supreme Court ruling, on the president’s health care law, lands later this week.
The Romney campaign chartered a plane big enough for the traveling press corps so that reporters would be on hand this week for Mr. Romney’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling in that highly charged case
But on Monday, when reporters asked repeatedly if Mr. Romney would discuss the immigration ruling, his traveling press secretary, Rick Gorka, said, “Probably not.”
Asked why Mr. Romney chartered a plane to comment on one court ruling but not another, Mr. Gorka replied, “We were very clear that this was about Obamacare.”