There's no great mystery as to why Mitt Romney is struggling so badly with Latinos: Romney has gone out of his way to deliberately antagonize the entire community -- endorsing "self-deportation," vowing to veto the DREAM Act, palling around Kris Kobach, using "illegal" as a noun, and describing Arizona's SB 1070 as a "model" for the nation.
And how many of these data points were raised in last night's debate? Literally, all of them. This, however, was the moment that amazed me.
For those who can't watch clips online, and who missed the debate, President Obama twice slammed Romney for having endorsed "self-deportation" as a credible immigration policy. Romney responded, haltingly:
"Self-deportation says let it, let people make their own choice. What I was saying is, we're not going to round up 12 million people, undocumented, illegals, and take them out of the nation. Instead, let, make people make their own choice. And if they, if they find that, that they can't get the benefits here that they want and they can't find the job they want, then they'll make a decision to go a place where, where they have better opportunities."
Oh, I see. Self-deportation, which started as a satirical joke before being adopted by conservative Republicans as a serious policy, is really about choices. Sure, the underlying point seems cruel, making immigrants' lives so miserable that they'll leave the country altogether, but for Mitt Romney, it's really just a celebration of "illegals" -- there's that word again -- having the freedom to "make their own choice."
In other words, instead of trying to Etch A Sketch his way out of his self-deportation agenda, Romney thinks he can convince Latino voters the idea isn't as ridiculous as it sounds.
Yeah, Mitt. Good luck with that.