Mitt Romney’s campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, appeared at a forum yesterday and conceded that he regrets how far to the right Romney went on immigration. At the Harvard University Institute of Politics, Rhoades added that the campaign team adopted an extreme position on immigration to outflank Texas Gov. Rick Perry, but in retrospect, it was unnecessary and ultimately counterproductive.
It’s against this backdrop that the last Republican president’s remarks seem especially salient.
Former President George W. Bush stressed the importance of immigration on Tuesday at a speech in Dallas, throwing himself back in the ring as the debate over reform heats up in Washington.
“Immigrants come with new skills and new ideas. They fill a critical part in our labor market. They work hard for a better life,” Bush said at the event, hosted by the George W. Bush Institute and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
His brief speech introduced the groups’ conference, which focused on the need for immigration reform to bolster economic growth. “Not only do immigrants help build our economy, they help invigorate our soul,” he said later in the speech.
This, obviously, bears no resemblance to Romney’s “self-deportation” rhetoric. It’s also a reminder of how and why Bush was able to be vastly more competitive when it came to Latino votes.
Looking ahead, if there’s one issue in the next Congress on which we might see some progress, it’s immigration. Bush isn’t exactly an influential figure anymore, but when reform proponents make their push on Capitol Hill, it probably can’t hurt to have the former president helping make the case.