He tweeted this yesterday. A day later, I’m still not sure what he means.

Sounds like he’s saying that Romney’s support for “self-deportation” was a major political mistake, which, along with his criticism of the “47 percent” who pay no income tax, probably cost him the election. That’s a common criticism on the left and among the GOP establishment, that Romney alienated Latino voters three years ago by pandering to conservatives in the primary with a plan to reduce illegal immigration via attrition through enforcement. If only he’d been a bit more centrist on amnesty, he wouldn’t have lost the Latino vote 71/27 to Obama and the outcome of the election would have been — well, it would have been pretty much the same, but at least the next Republican nominee wouldn’t have so much work to do in repairing relations with Latinos. In any case, “self-deportation” is emphatically not one of the right’s big problems with Romney. On the contrary, the fact that Romney was such a hardliner on the border is a key reason why prominent border hawks like Ann Coulter cheer him to this day. So, er, why is Donald “Deport ‘Em All” Trump criticizing him for his position? If anything, you’d expect Trump to view “self-deportation” as too weak; if you want to make sure illegals go home, the only way is to put them on the bus yourself.

Is it a pure reflex thing? Back in 2012, before he became the wall-builder of conservatives’ dreams, Trump was cooler to the idea of “self-deportation”:

“Republicans didn’t have anything going for them with respect to Latinos and with respect to Asians,” the billionaire developer says.

“The Democrats didn’t have a policy for dealing with illegal immigrants, but what they did have going for them is they weren’t mean-spirited about it,” Trump says. “They didn’t know what the policy was, but what they were is they were kind.”…

“He had a crazy policy of self deportation which was maniacal,” Trump says. “It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote,” Trump notes. “He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.”

Three years later: Deport ’em all. And yet, to this day, he’s still knocking Romney for a giant screw-up in taking a hardline immigration position himself. Huh.

So, the question: If mass self-deportation is a political disaster, why isn’t mass forcible deportation? Trump’s answer, I assume, would be that the polls don’t lie and that he’s doing perfectly well with Hispanics in Florida and nationally. And he would be correct. Some polls do show that. Other polls, of course, have his numbers with Latinos looking like a dumpster fire. I can believe that Trump would do better than Romney with Latinos notwithstanding his immigration policy — he’s got more personal charm, he has way more blue-collar economic appeal, and he represents the American dream to many in a way that Romney simply doesn’t — but I don’t understand how Trump himself can apparently believe that Romney’s comparatively less draconian immigration policy would be a bigger liability with Latinos than Trump’s own policy is. Square that circle for me. As it is, this is a little like Ron Paul criticizing Paul Ryan for being too tough on cutting mandatory spending. That’s supposed to be your thing, buddy. If it’s a mistake for him to do it, why isn’t it a mistake for you too?