Speaking to reporters at the RNC Summer Meeting on Friday, party Chair Reince Priebus took a swipe at former GOP standard-bearer Mitt Romney. Preibus said Romney’s use of the term “self-deportation” to describe his immigration policy was “horrific” and had “hurt” the party.
“Using the word ‘self-deportation’ — it’s a horrific comment to make,” Priebus said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with our party. When someone makes those comments, obviously, it hurts us.”
Romney had used the term often on the campaign trail to describe the consequences of his tougher enforcement of immigration laws. The implication being that, with real enforcement measures in place, illegal immigrants would “self-deport,” i.e. return to their home country, voluntarily.
The Romney’s phrase was inartful, at best. Most immigrant families contain both legal and illegal family members. Making “self-deportation” a center-piece of his immigration policies suggested that Romney was seeking to actively break-up families.
Romney adopted the phrase during the hard-fought Republican primaries, when he was trying to convince party supporters that we was conservative enough to win the nomination. He used it especially against Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who had more moderate views on immigration.
Although Hispanics have been trending more Democrat in recent years, Romney’s use of the phrase probably contributed to his especially weak showing among the group. He received just 27% of the Hispanic vote, well below the 32% earned by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and far below the 44% won by George W Bush.
That said, it may have been inartful for Preibus to take the indirect swing at Romney. The media have built a narrative that the Republicans face political armageddon unless they “repair” their image with Hispanics. The party is supposed to atone for past perceived sins. But, no atonement will ever satisfy the media.
I don’t know if Preibus was responding to a question specifically about the “self-deportation” line or whether he brought it up on his own. Republicans rarely need prodding to schedule time in the media confessional.