On Friday, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign redefined its connection with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) — again.
Kobach’s role with Romney has emerged as one of the central issues Romney faces as he tries to pivot away from his strong anti-immigration stance in the GOP primaries and head off President Obama’s expected strong showing with the Latino electorate in the general election. Advocates for the Latino community and Democrats have said that Romney’s ties to Kobach — an architect of anti-immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama — are a poison pill that makes connecting with Latino voters all but impossible.
Kobach says he’s an adviser to Romney’s campaign on immigration issues. Earlier this week, Romney’s campaign said that wasn’t the case, though Kobach insisted that it was. Now there’s a point of agreement: Kobach is an adviser, the Romney campaign acknowledged on Friday, but it’s not clear what that means.
Kobach “considers himself an ‘informal adviser’ to Romney,” CNN reported Friday. “Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul agreed with that assessment in an email to CNN.”
Earlier in the week, Team Romney was calling Kobach a “supporter” when asked why Kobach didn’t appear on a published list of advisers.
The Romney campaign did not immediately respond to a request for clarification from TPM about what Kobach’s role actually is.
In the January press release announcing Kobach’s support — which came in the midst of Romney pushing hard to the right on immigration to outflank Texas Gov. Rick Perry — Romney touted his connection to Kobach, who was also an adviser on his 2008 run.
“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,” Romney said in the January release.
The pair could be set for a ideological split soon. Romney has signalled he wants a Republican version of the DREAM Act (which Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio says is in the works), but Kobach has said it doesn’t pass his test for immigration reform.
Kobach represents the far-right immigration reform community Romney has courted for years. Rubio’s DREAM Act represents a shift back to the center that the party desperately needs if it hopes to prevent Obama from running away with the Latino vote. How Romney’s splits the difference is a big storyline moving forward.