In truth, Mr. Romney actually was in prime position as Governor to create a lasting State Police immigration enforcement program—and to address immigration on a variety of other fronts. Polls in Massachusetts showed voters opposing an effort to provide in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants by a two-to-one margin. The numbers for issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants were even worse. In other words, the political climate in the state, as liberal as it supposedly is, was ripe for a politician to come along and press exactly the buttons Mr. Romney is now pressing in his presidential campaign. The Democrats who dominate the Massachusetts Legislature would have had to work with him had he made immigration a priority.
Of course, he never even tried to do this. Mr. Romney was silent on the subject in 2003, 2004 and—except for expressing opposition (along with numerous Democrats and the clear majority of the public) to the in-state tuition proposal—2005. It was only in 2006, when he was spending more time outside of the state than inside it, that he discovered his life-long opposition to illegal immigration.
Now, he wants Republicans to believe he’s Tom Tancredo with electability. And he’s not afraid to rub it in his foes’ faces. The Z-Visa John McCain was pushing as part of his immigration reform plan, Mr. Romney seethed earlier this year, should be renamed an “A-Visa—because it’s amnesty, and that’s what it stands for.” That surely went over well in Iowa, where Mr. Romney leads the G.O.P. pack—and where he’s now using immigration to take aim at Mike Huckabee, who has stormed into a strong second place in the state. It’s also a far cry from what he was saying before he discovered his current position.
In November 2005, for instance, Mitt was asked about the topic by the Boston Globe and volunteered that Mr. McCain’s immigration ideas were “very different from amnesty, where you literally say, ‘OK, everybody here gets to stay.’ It’s saying you could work your way into becoming a legal resident of the country by working here without taking benefits and then applying and then paying a fine.”
In 2004, Republicans rallied against a Massachusetts politician who was for something before he was against it. Mitt Romney will have to hope that the second time’s the charm.