A Latino-vote outreach program on Tuesday plans to stress to voters that the president has failed on immigration reform and deported a record number of people, said the Republican National Committee's top Hispanic outreach coordinator.
But so far, it doesn't have a message on what Republicans would do on the issue themselves, and specifically the plans of presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney. In fact, coordinator Bettina Inclan told reporters, Romney didn't have his immigration policy mapped out and the RNC would not yet be able to talk about it to Latino voters.
The RNC quickly tried to take back the statement, telling reporters who tweeted it that Inclan's words were misunderstood -- or that she was misquoted. Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the RNC, said message coordination between the RNC and the Romney campaign is still in its early stages because challenger Rick Santorum only dropped out of the race two weeks ago.
Still, the statement by Inclan seemed to indicate the RNC's lack of message on immigration, despite an increased effort to turn out Latino voters. Below is the full quote from Inclan, that Kukowski would later say was misconstrued:
I think that as a candidate, to my understanding that he's still deciding what his position on immigration is, so I can't talk about what his proposal is going to be because I don't know what Romney exactly -- he's talked about different issues, and what we saw in the Republican primary is that there's a diverse opinion on how to deal with immigration. I can't talk about something that I don't know what his position is.
A few minutes later, after apparently reading tweets from reporters on the phone and in the room, Kukowski said they were misreporting the statement.
"I want to clear something up. As far as what Governor Romney's positions are on immigration, that is for him and his campaign to talk about, and they will tell you what their policies are," she said. "In this room right now, and what we do at the RNC from a Hispanic outreach perspective, is on-the-ground community outreach in the Hispanic community."
"So whatever was misconstrued as far as us -- we never said the governor is still deciding on immigration," she continued. "If you have a question about his immigration policy, you can go to their campaign."
The main message of the Latino outreach by the RNC will be jobs and the economy, which mirrors the efforts so far by the Romney campaign. Latinos are suffering economically, with higher-than-average levels of unemployment and low educational achievement.
But Obama indicated that he plans to hit Republicans hard on the issue of immigration, which it ranks below the economy in importance for Hispanic voters, but is highly considered nonetheless. In the midst of GOP debates where candidates fought to appear tough on immigration, Obama joked that he could replay those exchanges on Spanish-language stations and they would speak for themselves.
Obama has disappointed some Latinos on the issue of immigration, especially with legislative failures and deportation rates. When asked how it would approach the issue as a party that has largely advocated for more, not less, immigration enforcement, Inclan said it was more about showing how Obama failed on the issue.
"If you want to run on something, you have to run on the entire thing," Inclan said. "This is part of his record."
Romney has evolved his message on immigration, at least in tone, painting himself as a hawk who wanted to drive undocumented immigrants out of the country and veto a bill to help undocumented young people, and then pivoting to say he might support a plan from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that would do something similar for youth.
Inclan said that the party is ramping up its Latino outreach efforts, acknowledging Democrats may have been better at community efforts than the GOP in the past.
"There are certain polls that show that some members of the Hispanic community feel that the Republican Party isn't doing enough to include them in what we're doing, to reach out to them," she said. "So what we're trying to do is rebuild that relationship and make sure that they know that we do care."