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RNC Hispanic Outreach Director: Romney 'Still Deciding' Immigration Position

Bettina Inclan, the RNC's Hispanic outreach director, appears in a Web video announcing the party's new efforts to reach Hispanic voters, targeted in six battleground states.
Republican National Committee
Bettina Inclan, the RNC's Hispanic outreach director, appears in a Web video announcing the party's new efforts to reach Hispanic voters, targeted in six battleground states.

Republican Mitt Romney badly trails President Obama among Hispanic voters, according to several recent polls.

The Miami Herald reported this week: "If Romney can't narrow Obama's considerable lead among Hispanic voters, key battlegrounds including Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Florida could be out of reach for the Republican nominee."

It was against this backdrop that a statement by the Republican National Committee's new director of Hispanic outreach, Bettina Inclan, caused a bit of a stir on Tuesday.

"As a candidate, to my understanding, he is still deciding what his position on immigration is," Inclan said of Romney during a briefing with reporters.

The statement came when Inclan was pushed on whether heated rhetoric around immigration during this year's Republican primary campaign would hurt Romney's chances of winning over Hispanics in November.

As Inclan's comment spread on Twitter (it was retweeted by senior staffers in the Obama campaign), RNC press secretary Kirsten Kukowski stepped in to clarify.

"We never said the governor is still deciding on immigration," Kukowski said.

Kukowski then referred reporters to the Romney campaign for questions about his immigration policy. The Romney campaign would not comment on the record.

Inclan took to Twitter herself to clarify her comment:

@BettinaInclan: "I misspoke, Romney's position on immigration is clear"

The link goes to Romney's website, where his immigration policies are explained.

During the briefing, in response to reporters' questions on immigration policy, Inclan repeatedly mentioned the record number of deportations carried out by the Obama administration.

Inclan called it "almost insulting" to suggest that immigration is the only issue of importance to Hispanic voters. Jobs and the economy are first on Hispanic voters' minds, as polls have shown those issues to be top issues for voters overall, Inclan said.

But national figures — including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, both Hispanic Republicans — have expressed concern that Republican positions on immigration are turning off Hispanics.

During Tuesday's briefing, both the new Hispanic outreach program and unification of the RNC and the Romney campaign were characterized as in their early stages.

In 2008, Obama won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote, according to exit polls. Republican John McCain received only 31 percent, down from an estimated 40 to 45 percent Republican President George W. Bush captured in 2004.

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Arnie Seipel
Arnie Seipel is the Deputy Washington Editor for NPR. He oversees daily news coverage of politics and the inner workings of the federal government. Prior to this role, he edited politics coverage for seven years, leading NPR's reporting on the 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections. In between campaigns, Seipel edited coverage of Congress and the White House, and he coordinated coverage of major events including State of the Union addresses, Supreme Court confirmations and congressional hearings.

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