About a month after the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney’s campaign chief, Matt Rhoades, appeared at a forum and expressed “regret” for how far to the right the GOP candidate went on immigration. It was an understandable sentiment: Romney posturing on the issue helped contribute to his defeat.
Romney, however, appears to have no such regrets. The former Massachusetts governor, now running for the Senate in Utah, this week took aim at Dreamers, arguing that Donald Trump isn’t far enough to the right on immigration.
The comments came as the 2012 Republican presidential nominee turned 2018 Senate candidate defended his conservative credentials in front of a crowd of Republican voters in Utah worried he was too moderate to earn their votes.
“For instance, I’m a deficit hawk,” Romney said while taking questions at the town hall in Provo, according to the Daily Herald. “That makes me more conservative than a lot of Republicans and a lot of Democrats. I’m also more of a hawk on immigration than even the president. My view was these DACA kids shouldn’t all be allowed to stay in the country legally.”
Romney added, “Now I will accept the president’s view on this, but for me, I draw the line and say, those who’ve come illegally should not be given a special path to citizenship.”
There are a few angles of note to a story like this. The first is that many leading GOP officials, generally work from the assumption that there’s value in helping Dreamers. Indeed, even Trump, who put Dreamers’ futures in jeopardy asked in September, “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?”
The answer, according to Mitt Romney, is yes.
Second, trying to keep track of Romney’s position on immigration is proving to be difficult. Before his bids for national office, he wasn’t known for being especially far to the right on the issue. Then he became Mr. Self-Deportation. Last month, however, Romney seemed to rebuke Trump as being overly harsh on immigration, criticizing the “message of exclusion” immigrants receive from Washington. This week, however, reflecting on DACA protections for Dreamers, he argued that Trump isn’t far enough to the right.
Or put another way, Mitt Romney, who’s earned a reputation for being all over the map on a few too many issues, is still Mitt Romney.
Third, let’s not forget that Romney is running to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who clearly bears little resemblance to the constructive lawmaker he used to be, but who nevertheless co-authored the original Dream Act, created specifically to protect the Dreamers who Romney is eager to deport.
In practical terms, it means that when Romney is sworn in as a U.S. senator in 10 months, we’ll have yet another example of a prominent GOP official being replaced by another GOP official who’s further to the right than his predecessor.
Finally, it may be tempting to think Romney is adopting a hardline on a major issue because he’s running in one of the nations’ most reliably red states. But the details matter, Republicans may dominate in Utah, but the state’s residents are ”largely supportive of deporting undocumented immigrants with criminal records,” and have “long favored legal immigration and pushed for reforms to encourage it.”
Romney doesn’t have to take this position against Dreamers. He wants to.