POLITICS
11/23/2011 01:49 pm ET Updated Nov 23, 2011

Obama Camp Uses Gingrich To Bash Romney On Immigration, With Caveats

The Obama campaign tried its best Wednesday morning to draw attention to a conference call, hosted by Hispanic allies of the president, designed to chastise Mitt Romney for his stance on immigration reform.

"You'll want to be on this call," emailed Ben LaBolt, the campaign's press secretary, hours before it took place. Other advisories followed.

Sure enough, the 30-minute session featured some fairly tough talk. LaBolt called Romney "the most right-wing presidential candidate in recent presidential history" on immigration -- which may be true if one considers actual nominees but fails to take into account primary candidates like Pat Buchanan.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) argued that when Romney demonizes undocumented immigrants, he is acting no better than those who criticize his Mormon faith.

"Part of what is disturbing is he is the one who has had to ignore the attacks on his religion and for him to now take this kind of position is incredibly perplexing," Reyes said. "I don't understand where he is coming from and [what he is] accomplishing by doing these things, such as attacking immigration policy. I don't know where his values are.

"Being subjected to intolerance like that about his own religion, to me you would think that he, in terms of his policies and positions, would take a more tolerant view," he added.

All the hosts, to varying degrees, attempted to use the stance Newt Gingrich took during Tuesday night's GOP debate -- that some of the undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States should be allowed to stay, especially if they've been here for a long time and have ties to their communities -- to badger Romney.

It was that point that proved the trickiest. It's one thing to contrast Gingrich with Romney when the former stands no chance of being the GOP nominee. But the one-time House Speaker has emerged as a frontrunner in Iowa, and it is not out of the question that he will give Romney a run for the nomination.

And so, while the Obama campaign and its allies were eager to use Gingrich as evidence that Romney is far outside the mainstream, they did so, repeatedly, with caveats.

"It is very interesting," said Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas). "Where former Speaker Gingrich came from, he said: 'Look we need some sort of comprehensive immigration reform,' and the truth is, he's correct. Let's hope he stays on that position. I read today he was kind of walking back from it."

Gonzalez then further qualified his praise of Gingrich, likely to avoid saying anything that could be used against Obama down the line.

"My prediction is Speaker Gingrich will walk back from what was a reasonable position during the debate," he said.

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