Democrats are accusing Mitt Romney of trying to clean up his image with the Latino electorate by distancing himself from one of the most notorious right-wing figures on immigration.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) is a leading intellectual in the right’s push against illegal immigration. He assisted in the creation of Arizona’s explosive SB 1070, and the even-harsher immigration law in Alabama.
Kobach and Romney go back a long way. Romney hailed him as an adviser during his 2008 campaign. Romney has long leveraged a get-tough image when it comes to immigration, one of the few policy areas where he has not at one time been to the left of much of the Republican base. In 2012, Romney again touted his immigration credentials by getting close to Kobach, though he didn’t specifically call him “an adviser.”
“We need more conservative leaders like Kris willing to stand up for the rule of law,” Romney said in a January 2012 statement announcing Kobach’s endorsement of his most recent bid. “With Kris on the team, I look forward to working with him to take forceful steps to curtail illegal immigration and to support states like South Carolina and Arizona that are stepping forward to address this problem.”
In an interview with TPM at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, Kobach said he was playing a bigger role as part of Team Romney in 2012 than he did in 2008.
“Comparing my involvement from 2008 to 2012, I’ve been much more involved,” he said, adding that he interacts with Romney’s staff regularly. Kobach said he’s only touted as an “endorser” this time around because he is currently serving in elected office.
“I think there was a release calling me an adviser and here [this time] I’m an endorser,” Kobach said told TPM at CPAC. “Probably because I didn’t hold any office [back then] and being endorsed by a law professor in 2008 is probably not all that exciting.”
Kobach told the AP back in February that he’d been advising Romney on immigration since the start of the year.
Romney’s campaign hasn’t commented much on Kobach’s role with the campaign, despite Kobach’s repeated insistence he’s an immigration policy adviser. On Tuesday, however, the campaign responded to a question about Kobach’s role with a succinct answer:
From Politico’s Glenn Thrush:
When I asked Boston if Kobach was still an “adviser,” a Romney spokesperson emailed back: “supporter.”
And then she sent a cut-pasted a copy of a press release from Kobach’s endorsement earlier this year.
Democrats smell a rat. “Etch-a-Sketch moment?” tweeted Obama presidential adviser David Axelrod. “After telling donors he’s ‘doomed’ unless he picks up with Latinos, Mitt puts kibosh on Kobach.”
If Kobach is not considered an adviser, it’s news to him. He told ThinkProgress that his “relationship with the campaign has not changed.”
“Still doing the same thing I was doing before.” Asked what that entails, he said, “providing advice on immigration policy.” “I don’t want to go into great detail, but I communicate regularly with senior members of Romney’s team,” he explained.
Kobach and Romney did not respond to requests for comment from TPM.