It’s not the Democrats, whom Mitt Romney accuses of making a “huge error” by turning it into a partisan fight. They should be listening to Donald Trump, Romney told Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday, because he’s tapped into a non-partisan feeling across a wide swath of Americans that illegal immigration has gotten out of control. “I think the president has tapped into something,” Romney tells Todd, “which the people feel very deeply”:
“We can’t have millions upon millions of people flooding into our country without a border that’s secure, without ICE making sure the people that are here illegally are sent back,” he said, referencing the nickname for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
“This is a winning issue I think for Republicans. But more importantly, it’s a winning issue for Americans to say, ‘We have to have the sovereignty of our nation.'”
Just how far does Romney go in supporting Trump’s immigration policies? Pretty much all the way, and then some. Romney only reluctantly supports pushing forward with normalization of DACA because of Barack Obama’s “presidential pledge,” but seems even less enthusiastic than Trump in doing so. Romney sounds more enthusiastic about Trump’s big campaign promise. “We need to complete the border fence,” Romney tells Todd, along with e-verify and a serious tightening of the asylum system “that’s really overwhelming our system.”
That may not surprise too many people who remember Romney’s brief flirtation with “self-deportation” in 2012. It will surprise people who thought that Romney would serve as a rally point for Never Trumpers in the GOP. To be fair, Romney didn’t sell himself that way during the Senate campaign; he made clear his distaste for Trump’s behavior and rhetoric, but not on policy. Romney’s not a populist, as his 2012 campaign demonstrated, but he’s also not someone who will refuse to push the conservative agenda just because it’s being led temporarily by someone he doesn’t much like.