Romney campaign manager sorry for immigration rhetoric (but only because it wasn’t necessary?)

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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During a forum at the Harvard University Institute of Politics yesterday, Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades said he regretted the decision to attack Rick Perry over immigration.

But here’s the interesting thing — he didn’t seem to regret the move (which contributed to Mitt Romney’s losing 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in the general election) based on policy merits — or even a change of heart.

Instead, according to reports, his lamentation was primarily based on a the assessment that attacking Perry on the issue was strategically superfluous.

As Jeff Zeleny reported: “‘In retrospect,’ Mr. Rhoades said, ‘I believe that we could have probably just beaten Governor Perry with the Social Security hit.'” (In case you’ve forgotten, Romney attacked Rick Perry relentlessly over comments Perry made about the Social Security program being a “Ponzi scheme”.)

Having gone to Perry’s left on Social Security, Romney then tried to go to Perry’s right on immigration. In so doing, he played to the nativist fears of some in the conservative base. (Romney presumably needed to demagogue the immigration issue in order to curry favor with conservatives, who never trusted him to begin with.  Sadly, but predictably, his rhetoric worked.)

But it’s not as if Romney experienced a moment of weakness. He had a similar conflict with Newt Gingrich over “self-deportation” — and whether or not we should be kicking grandmothers out of the country.

If you’re looking for a reason Republicans do so poorly with Hispanics — despite the fact that they agree with conservatives on a lot of issues — this is it.

Matt K. Lewis